Expectations were not exactly high heading into the "Sonic the Hedgehog" movie. But I fell - fast - for his first big-screen adventure.
You could say that things started off pretty slow for old Sonic...when the first teaser trailer dropped for "Sonic the Hedgehog" last Spring, it caused an uproar from movie-goers for how..."off"...Sonic looked. It was the Lucille Ball statue controversy that rocked the movie industry, causing the film's distributor, Paramount Pictures, to delay the film while they did a complete re-imagining of the CG-animated Sonic. Needless to say, this ordeal left fans extremely on edge and a bit pessimistic that their beloved video game character would be handled properly for his first-ever jump to the movie screen.
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Flash-forward, and the little-hedgehog-that-could seems to have defied all odds, becoming the first really good family film of the year.
Voiced in the film by Ben Schwartz (who also voices Dewey Duck on the re-launched "DuckTales" series as well as Leonardo in "Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"), Sonic the Hedgehog is of course based on the mascot from SEGA, a video game character created for a run (pun intended) on the Sega Genesis to take-down industry giant and SEGA rival, Nintendo's Mario. The first Sonic game was released in 1991, and since then the Sonic franchise has sold over 100 million games, grossing over 5 billion dollars.
It's hard to believe that it's taken nearly 30 years to get Sonic on the big-screen...it's been caught up in red tape and pre-production hell for a good stretch of that, and this turtle's pace is definitely not what Sonic is used to. But taking this long road, matched with the last-minute redesign and delayed release - and not to mention the overall lack of quality of ANY previous "video game movie" that's ever been made - and let's just say that many were not expecting much at all from this mid-February dump.
Maybe low expectations play into it, but "Sonic the Hedgehog" was a blast...and for a family film, it was especially a cleverly-written, entertaining blast. Sonic is boosted tremendously by the presence of the uniquely gifted Jim Carrey, playing the villainous "Eggman" Dr. Robotnik, Sonic's nemesis, who brings every bit of energy to the role that we remember from Carrey's heyday in films like "Dumb & Dumber" and "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective." Watching him work, his natural comedic aura working on overdrive, you're reminded only of Robin Williams, who had a similar drive. Not only is Carrey funny - who knows what this movie would have been without his presence - but he's the only living actor whose mind and mannerisms seem to work at a frantic hyper-speed. He's the Sonic the Hedgehog of comedy. The rest of the supporting cast, with James Marsden as Sonic's new best friend, and filled out by Adam Pally, Tika Sumpter and Lee Majdoub, are all on the same page, and everything just seems to gel.
Sonic - after all these years - is still needling at his rival Mario. In the film, if things don't work out for Sonic on Earth, he continues to talk about a drab, boring world that he'll be forced to move to, a world full of mushrooms. Anyone who has played any version of Super Mario Bros. will identify the joke here.
As family entertainment, there hasn't been a better film yet in 2020, and this isn't just a good way to kill time in the cold of February..."Sonic the Hedgehog" will stand on its own as one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. Against all odds, Sonic keeps on rolling.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Family.
Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes.
Starring: Ben Schwartz (voice of Sonic), Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Neal McDonough, Adam Pall, Lee Majdoub.
Directed by Jeff Fowler (feature-film directorial debut).
"Sonic the Hedgehog" is in theaters on Friday, February 14th, 2020.
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