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It has garnered a unique reputation over its development, but with a rushed redesign, Sonic the Hedgehog has hit theatres, and everybody has had something to say about it. The film presents itself as a generic family romp, with some action for the adrenaline junkies, soppier moments for those of an emotional persuasion and raucous comedy that keeps the kids entertained and even allows the adults to crack a smile now and then.
Of course, it isn’t anything you haven’t seen before. After a lifetime of loneliness, Sonic finds himself on the run from government operative and completely insane scientist Dr. Robotnik, partnering up with a small-town cop on his quest to reach San Francisco, where he can flee the planet safely. The film is built around the relationship between Sonic and Tom, who go through the usual motions; Tom, played by James Marsden, has no time for Sonic at first, finding him annoying, but they bond through the mutual danger they face. By the end, to nobody’s surprise, it is his relationship with Tom that allows Sonic to face up to his fears once and for all.
A distinct effort has been made in the department of Sonic’s character, if not the script. The blue blur is well known for having leapt right out of the ’90s with a cocksure attitude and an eye-roll-inducing catchphrase in ‘gotta go fast!’, but in this film, while possessing some of those attributes, he feels like an entirely new Sonic. Much is made of his crippling loneliness at the beginning of the film, as he must keep himself hidden to prevent anybody from hunting him down and running tests on him. This most commonly comes out in incidents where Sonic, voiced by Ben Schwartz ends up talking to and arguing with himself, which I first took to be a one-off gag that was designed to get laughs. However, even midway and in the later parts of the film, Sonic continues to talk to himself – it’s not a joke, it’s a verbal tic brought on by his past. The way that this tic is consistently used (even in serious and dramatic scenes) shows that effort was made to characterise Sonic and provide him with additional depth – that would still make sense for the storyline of the film.
Sonic would be nothing without his nefarious foe Dr. Robotnik, of course, and Jim Carrey absolutely nails the role. His reinterpretation of the good doctor brings every scene featuring him to life, as his glib remarks and unshakeable confidence provide an excellent springboard for both Tom and Sonic to bounce off of.
Robotnik in most Sonic games is a bumbling, laughable villain with a propensity towards chaos. However, Carrey’s Robotnik is nothing like that. He plays a sleek, unflappable mad scientist whose moments of breaking character, such as during a scene when he is running some tests while dancing around listening to music (who hasn’t danced around their room to their favourite songs?), make him surprisingly relatable.
Though a lot of the comedy lands, the rest is likely to be dated just a few years down the line. Sonic the Hedgehog is the typical fare, and though it doesn’t excel in any particular area, there is something to be said for a film that does everything decently. It may not have as much cultural impact as an experimental film that does poorly, but if you want a safe film that provides enough entertainment for the whole family, Sonic the Hedgehog can provide.