At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Sonic the Hedgehog “2020”

MPAA Rating: PG/ Genre: Action-Adventure-Comedy/ Stars: James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Lee Majdoub, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Neal McDonough, Tom Butler, Frank C. Turner; Voice of: Ben Schwartz/ Runtime: 99 minutes

I feel it must be said that whenever a person in Hollywood wishes to adapt any of the types of source material that exist out there and transform them into a cinematic experience for audiences the world over to enjoy and cherish there will always be a set of unique tasks that will always be a prerequisite to the creative process as a whole. Yet I feel that if you asked anyone what was the hardest adaptation to truly make let alone one both critics and fans will be able to get behind and appreciate, I definitely think that quite a few people would definitely say that a true adaptation of a classic video game character has long been seen as a Holy Grail of filmmaking for a while now. Yet despite the majority of such adaptations not really amounting to much, if anything, it may surprise you to learn that there have been a few which actually managed to stick the landing. The reason I bring this up is because upon seeing it I can honestly say that Sonic the Hedgehog¬†is most definitely that kind of movie. Indeed, thanks to a grounded yet wonderful story that feels perfect for this particular character, a sense of nostalgia that feels more loving than overbearing, and wonderful work from a game cast, this is a film that manages to take one of the most popular characters in the history of video games, and bring him to life in a way never thought possible….

The plot is as follows: Sonic the Hedgehog tells us the story of a superfast and super blue hedgehog from another world named Sonic who, since fleeing his own world, has been quietly living in exile on Earth for about a decade, and leading what you could definitely call a comfortable day-to-day albeit one that is incredibly lonely and definitely full of mischief. However while Sonic does manage to do a fairly remarkable job in play things to the vest whilst living in a town known as Green Hills it isn’t long sadly before one little incident manages to unfortunately draw the wrong kind of attention courtesy of the US Government to his presence on this planet. An attention that also manages to acquire Sonic both a new albeit very reluctant ally in a local sheriff by the name of Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) as well as an archenemy in an evil inventor/genius named Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). Thus it is up to Sonic to try and find a way to keep both himself and his newfound friend safe from Robotnik while trying to find a way to foil whatever schemes the evil doctor may be cooking up to try and rid the world of both him and his super speedy ways for good…..

Now whenever a filmmaker chooses to make an adaptation of a previously established property like Sonic, there should always exist a caution and discretion that the people in charge of the adaptation won’t have the heart or smarts to understand just what has made this material so beloved in the first place. Indeed you can’t even say the words Mario Brothers in a movie theater without someone wanting to junk punch you. Thankfully, I can tell you dear viewer that is not to be found within this film. I say that because this film’s writer duo has managed to do a wonderful job of ensuring that this surprisingly relaxed take is filled with enough vitality and character that this more down to earth take actually is able to work for a character who has always been anything but. Indeed, and to be fair, the writers of this film do make the choice to take some distinct artistic liberties with certain aspects of the series that had previously been established, I also feel that the liberties taken are certainly nothing horrendous enough that the Sonic and Sega purists out there will pick up pitch forks and torches and start protesting at the gates of Paramount Studios any day now.

I say this because honestly I definitely feel that the way that this film chooses to take what we expect and then unload some pretty intriguing surprises along the way is definitely a positive which goes a long way in this case. Plus while so many other video game-centric films in the past have always tried to fill their first films to the absolute brink with as many loving winks and nods to the fans as they possibly can this film wisely knows not to do that. Instead this film takes things at a nice leisurely pace and chooses to work the audience into the world of the character no matter how familiar or unfamiliar you are with Sonic and his various misadventures. Now make no mistake: for those of you who are ardent players or fans of Sonic the Hedgehog there are nods and winks in this movie that will keep you as satisfied as can be. Yet even with those potential franchise indicators in play, pun intended, and it’s slightly obvious there’s clearly more stories that can be told in this world I definitely applaud the cast and filmmakers for still choosing to focus their collective energy towards making this the best film it could be rather than the stepping stone toward something else.

Now I feel that a huge positive that this take to the iconic character that is Sonic the Hedgehog really¬†has going for it is the fact that, due to the unusually high focus on making this film the best it could be, it also manages to be a great intro to the character as well. Indeed by choosing to make a Sonic movie and then utilize the old fish out of water narrative it actually makes this movie a lot easier to enjoy for people who never played the games get an idea on just why this particular super speedy, super blue hedgehog has been popular for so long. Indeed by offering up relatable thrills, humor, and surprisingly relatable emotional moments this is one adaptation that anyone can enjoy no matter if you ever grew up with the games, the Jaleel White-voiced cartoon character, or none of that whatsoever. With that positive being said however, I do feel that to some extent this does come at a cost. The said cost of course is that despite being accessible to everyone I do feel like there are moments where the story is withholding just a bit too much for its own good. I say that because when you see the film you will see that there were moments where this story could have not only expanded significantly, but also gone for the jugular a lot more than it did, and by failing to take those chances it really feels like this is just a movie which is merely skimming the surface of the vast universe that these iconic characters are ultimately a part of. However despite that little quirk I definitely do not for a moment think it should negate any positive feelings or emotions that the narrative gets from you, but at the same time it might make you wonder what could’ve been brought to the screen had the filmmakers tapped into their wild and creative side just a littttle bit more.

With that being said though I definitely feel that the main area where this film chooses to go big or go home in would have to be with the characters involved. Indeed I feel that no finer example of this can be found than in the movie’s dynamic castings of both Ben Schwartz as Sonic and Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik respectively. Indeed whether these 2 class acts are being pit against each other in a scene or they are busy doing their own thing in their scenes apart from each other I definitely feel that it is these 2 actors who form the main reason that this film ultimately is able to work as efficiently and as wonderfully as it ultimately does.

This is because on the Sonic side of the coin, Ben Schwartz does an absolutely fantastic job of blending not only the quick and speedy, pun intended, wit that this celebrated character is known for possessing alongside a surprising degree of loneliness and pathos that fans of the character might actually not be expecting. This is because while a lot of the previous showcases for this character bring with it not just an attitude, but also a thriving sense of determination, this one also has a degree of homesickness due to being on a world that is most definitely not his own. Indeed it may never get to the extent that say another famous alien organism cough ET cough cough got to, but it is still quite emotional to watch Sonic actually form a bond with his human buddy Tom whilst also trying to find a way to survive on his new home which also happens to be our planet. With that being said, and on the other side of the coin, I definitely am happy to say that, as Dr. Robotnik, Jim Carrey has finally made a triumphant return to the manic comedy that made him an icon in the first place and done so in truly spectacular style and fashion. Indeed make no mistake this is yet another taking of artistic liberties between the source material and a cinematic representation because while in the video games this guy is wayyy more sinister here he is played more like a spoiled brat, villainous man-child genius extraordinaire that is more comedic in his roots. Suffice it to say this was definitely a good route to go down since nearly every time Carrey is on time he will make you laugh due to his brand of schtick and wild, crazy, oftentimes borderline insane, but all the time goofy and childish in some way, shape, form, or fashion antics. Indeed this is the Carrey we have sorely been needing more of on screen the past few years, and I’m hoping we see more to come in the years ahead.

Now I definitely feel that by this film possessing a solid amount of humor embroiled in the shenanigans unfolding on screen definitely makes it a lot easier for both young people and adults to both really enjoy this film in equal measure while also helping the movie move at a decent enough clip. With that being said however, I also feel that for adults who aren’t easily amused by either Sonic’s speedy shenanigans or Robotnik’s hilariously over-the-top villainous man child antics they will definitely get a kick out of James Marsden and Tika Sumpter at least once in this. Indeed this is because due to a terrific sense of timing for a wonderfully utilized deadpan sense of humor, Marsden and Sumpter not only make for some laughs that are dryer than a martini, but they also do an amazing job of keeping things relatable and you could almost say human despite a lot of the crazy stuff that occurs during this movie.

All in all I feel that it is the delightful mixing of these iconic characters that really makes this reviewer feel that this is one movie that honestly can exist just as much today as it could have back when this was a video game on the Sega system. Indeed by choosing to avoid a purely inter-dimensional odyssey, and instead making this a buddy comedy/ pursuit-type of film, this is one film which succeeds by capturing the vibe of a kid-friendly version of a movie like Midnight Run rather than nothing more than a edgy and overzealous adaptation of this work that attempts to work way too hard in pleasing today’s kids. Thankfully this is one video game adaptation which is able to do what the majority either can’t or won’t. Indeed although it chooses to play in an established sandbox, this is also a film that wears its heart where it counts yet is also willing to go as goofy as it needs to please its target audience. Indeed Sonic the Hedgehog may only be the beginning of this particular story, but trust me when I say that with this kind of foundation the future is looking absolutely bright for where this series can go from here. On a scale of 1-5 I give Sonic the Hedgehog a solid 3.5 out of 5