After a delay, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is finally in theaters. When Paramount released the original trailer in April 2019, audiences were concerned by the uncannily humanoid appearance of Sonic’s computer-generated animation. In November, an updated trailer with a more stylized animated hedgehog was released. To accommodate re-animating the entire film, the release date was pushed from Nov. 8 to Feb.14. But for Sonic fans, the final product will be worth the wait.
The film begins in media res, with a shot of Dr. Robotnik, played by Jim Carrey, chasing Sonic, voiced by Ben Schwarz, through San Francisco. The camera freezes and Sonic delivers a “you’re probably wondering how I got here”-style monologue, at the end of which he asks, “Am I going too fast?”
Indeed, the early scenes of “Sonic the Hedgehog” play out at breakneck speed, with initially shoddy character and plot development. After the opening shot, Sonic’s narration backtracks to his childhood. We learn that after his powers of super-speed were discovered, the blue hedgehog had to flee his home planet and come to Earth. He has spent the last 10 years in Green Hills, Montana, hiding away and invisibly observing the small town’s residents — in particular local cop Tom Wachowski, played by James Marsden, and his wife, Maddie, played by Tika Sumpter.
In the film, Sonic loses control of his powers and causes a mass power outage. In response, the US government sends in mad scientist Dr. Ivo Robotnik to investigate. Dr. Robotnik discovers Sonic’s existence and becomes hell-bent on capturing him and controlling his powers. Sonic persuades Tom, who has also discovered his existence, to help him escape, and the two go on the run.
From there the film continues to unfold quickly, but the fast pace feels more fitting during car chases and superhero-esque battles. Although much of the action is overtly stylized — Sonic turns into a blue blur when he moves at super-speed, and Dr. Robotnik’s various vehicles often appear as similar red blurs — it remains visually engaging and easy to follow while still embracing cartoonish special effects.
“Sonic the Hedgehog” is also genuinely funny. Jim Carrey delivers his usual combination of physical comedy and snappy lines, all made even more over-the-top by his character’s ridiculous mustache. He has plenty of time in the spotlight; I’ll never forget the image of Dr. Robotnik dancing to “Where Evil Grows” while his robots carry out his evil bidding.
But the character who gets the most laughs is Sonic himself. He’s filled with energy, often literally bouncing off the walls, and, as Tom remarks several times, he almost never stops talking. After watching the trailer, I expected to find this relentless stream of one-liners annoying, but it works surprisingly well, especially when he’s riffing off the other characters.
The lack of time devoted to exposition at the beginning of the film leaves more room for an unexpected number of emotionally moving moments later on. Sonic’s power surge happens when he has a breakdown after realizing how lonely he has become after 10 years in isolation. The rest of the film centers around his love for Earth and his attempts to form a real friendship with Tom. He has observed Tom’s life from afar and longs to be accepted into it. Tom, on the other hand, is initially shocked and annoyed by the strange alien suddenly dominating his life, but he quickly becomes charmed by Sonic and ultimately views him as a friend.
The film also centers around the significance of home. Sonic is planning to run away to a new planet to escape Dr. Robotnik, but he is heartbroken about leaving Earth before he has had a chance to do everything he wants to. When he finds out Tom is planning on moving to San Francisco to advance his career, Sonic is furious that Tom would willingly leave Green Hills when Sonic is so upset to be forced away from it.
In the end, Sonic, Tom and Maddie all get a happy ending, sending a heartwarming message about the importance of found family. Although marketed as a total comedy, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is full of emotion. It’s also still quite funny for the most part, avoiding the crass “adult” humor that has snuck into children’s movies in recent years. And an exciting after-credits scene teases a future sequel. While “Sonic” might not have the most original plot or smooth writing, it’s fun, funny and surprisingly sweet.