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‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ is Fast Family Fun (Spoiler-Free Review)

How is this movie not bad? I have no idea!

Let’s start with the obvious factor: the redesign.

If the movie’s original look for the Blue Blur was kept, it wouldn’t have been bearable; none of it would’ve worked. Not to say that everything about the movie worked, but I’m pleased to say that “Sonic the Hedgehog” was such a breath of fresh air (and relief, for a longtime fan like me). I’m serious: this is a legitimately good, fun video game film adaptation that anyone in the family can enjoy.

So, the premise. Sonic arrives on Earth from his world, living on his own until he catches the attention of some humans, namely Tom, a cop in a small town, and the mad scientist Dr. Robotnik, who gives pursuit with the government’s permission. Now on the run, Sonic and Tom have to get along and help each other out.

Much like some of the games, arguably, the story is probably the weakest part of the film. It’s already been criticized for being too basic and bare bones. It’s a very valid argument, considering you have a speedy, anthropomorphic blue hedgehog who comes from a world of loops and rings. This does work to the film’s own favor, allowing time to develop its characters quickly, and not everything in the film needs explanation, but there are some elements that I wish were developed more, Sonic-related or not.

Humor is subjective, and the film is filled with it. Personally, I got plenty of good laughs from the quips and cleverness. At the same time, the script leans on a lot of pop culture for a number of its jokes. It might be distracting for some. Plus, given Sonic’s speed power, you can expect the expected speed gags.

Also, there are a couple points when you’ve got to wonder if the people in the film know exactly what they’re seeing when they look at Sonic for themselves. These moments are played for laughs, obviously, and they are few and far between, but it did still make me wonder while watching.

The performances were great all around: Ben Schwartz as the blue ball of energy, James Marsden as the relatable human foil Tom, Tika Sumpter as Tom’s wife Maddie, and of course Jim Carrey as the increasingly insane Dr. Robotnik. Props to the visual effects, especially since the team that worked on them shut down. They should be proud knowing that their CGI animation and designs not only looked convincing enough for what the film was going for but also made Sonic so charming and pleasing to watch alongside the human cast.

Something central to the film that I think works incredibly well is the theme of friendship and bonds, as seen in the trailers. It’s crucial to how Sonic manages on Earth with Tom and is greatly contrasted with how Robotnik does things – and makes for some brilliant foreshadowing, without giving anything away.

I also believe the film benefits greatly from its PG rating and its runtime. It would’ve been too much to get a PG-13 audience to care about a cartoonish looking creature as he faces a crazed scientist bent on world domination in a two-hour film. Just like Sonic himself, his movie is fast-paced and relatively short, only about 100 minutes long. That and being family-friendly allows the film to breeze past over-explaining its sillier elements and embrace them instead.

There are plenty of references, too, more than just the ones we’ve seen from the trailers and TV spots. Despite the basic Earth plot, the filmmakers clearly respect the source material with numerous nods in the dialogue, visuals, and music. At a certain point in the middle of the film, I jumped and said to myself, “Did he just-?” Then the following scene confirmed what I thought, and I geeked out in my seat. Actually, I geeked out several times throughout the movie, but that’s how faithful it is! (Not kidding, the kids in my theater were pointing out all the stuff from the games like me.)

Overall, I had a fun time watching this film. The positives far outweigh the negatives. If I can compare this film to the last notable and decent video game film, “Detective Pikachu,” I would say I enjoyed “Sonic the Hedgehog” more. This isn’t just because I’m more of a “Sonic” fan than a “Pokémon” fan, though. I really think “Sonic the Hedgehog” is better as a piece of entertainment. I liked “Detective Pikachu,” but I think that film was made more for fans than general audiences. “Sonic the Hedgehog” was made to bring general audiences and fans together and get them both excited for more to come. To that end, I think it did a great job.

I can’t believe that of all video game franchises and characters, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is one that gets a good film. I can’t complain, though. Sonic has been my favorite video game hero ever since I was a kid, and I’m more than happy with what I watched. I didn’t want/need his film to be rife with suggestive content, deep themes, political commentary, or anything like that. I just wanted a good movie that I – that anyone – could simply enjoy. And I got it.

If I can say anything else, please go out and see this movie. You’ll have fun, and we need fun in this world of ours. Let’s support good video game films like this one so that more and more effort will be put into them. Oh, and please stay during the credits, especially if you’re a fan. Your theater will erupt, like mine did.

“Sonic the Hedgehog” is in theaters now, rated PG for action, some violence, rude humor, and brief mild language.

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