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Review: ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ Swiftly Finds Its Funny Bone

James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, and Jim Carrey star in the family adventure, directed by Jeff Fowler. 

At least since 1993’s Super Mario Bros., major Hollywood studios have endeavored to adapt popular video games into narrative features, many times to disastrous results. More recently, the rebooted Tomb Raider (2018), took a step in the right direction, followed by Pokemon Detective Pikachu (2019), which I haven’t seen yet, but has received more positive reviews than negative. 

Now comes Sonic the Hedgehog, which swiftly finds its funny bone and proves to be a pleasant diversion that makes for a generally entertaining family adventure. 

The film introduces its titular character in speedy motion before rewinding to his origin story, which is dispatched as quickly as possible. Sonic was born on a distant planet where his people came under attack, prompting Sonic to be dispatched to another planet far, far away, for his own safety. He is instructed never to reveal himself, lest his incredible speed disrupt any other intelligent form of life. He is also entrusted with a bag of golden rings that each opens a portal, allowing the user to instantly jump to another location. 

Sonic, however, is pathologically unable to restrain himself from dashing to and fro like a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. (Indeed, that common condition, taken together with Sonic’s diminutive size, may explain why children and their parents find Sonic to be so relatable.) 

One day, his presence becomes known to likable local lawman Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), who lives with his veterinarian wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) in a small, friendly town in Montana. Tom yearns to prove himself in a larger setting, and is overjoyed when he is accepted for a position with the San Francisco Police Department. 

Tom’s agreeable nature is sorely tested by an encounter with Sonic in his garage, and is tested further when Sonic unintentionally loses his bag of golden rings … in San Francisco … leading to Tom accompanying Sonic on a road trip. (It’s only a little bit complicated.) 

Sonic has, unfortunately, attracted the attention of the U.S. government which, fearful of Sonic’s threat as a possible extraterrestrial, assigns the legendarily daffy Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to investigate, along with the more low-key Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub). Things blow up from there, prompting Robotnik to unleash a stunning array of robotic weapons as the not-so-good doctor seeks to learn (and then seize) the source of Sonic’s powers. 

Written for the screen by Pat Casey and Josh Miller, and directed by Jeff Fowler, Sonic the Hedgehog displays a light spirit that revolves around James Marsden, who shows amazing chemistry with a CGI creation, perhaps the best between a human and an  animated character since Bob Hoskins was constantly flummoxed by his partner in Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). 

Best known for his roles in blockbusters like the X-Men series, James Marsden is equally at home in dramatic thrillers (Straw Dogs) and silly comedies (Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues). As Sonic dashes around like a puppy set free from his leash for the first time, Marsden supplies a solid core for the antics that take place all around him. 

No doubt, lowered expectations for a video-game movie helps, but Sonic the Hedgehog achieves success with its modest goal to entertain, and to showcase Jim Carrey, who can once again be as nutty as he wants to be, in a role he was born to play. 

The film opened in Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding cities on Friday, February 14, 2020. Viewed on June 5, 2020, via FandangoNow

For more information about the film, visit the official site.