REVIEW: Weak story trips ‘Sonic’

One doesn’t need to be as fast as Sonic to catch up on what’s happening in this rather predictable film.

The Sonic character, originally appearing in Sega video games, isn’t a stranger to the screen. There have been six animated series about the Blue Blur, including the 90s series “Sonic the Hedgehog” and the 00s show “Sonic X.” There was also the late 90s anime film, also titled “Sonic: The Hedgehog.”

While “Sonic X” took a lot of inspiration from the “Sonic Adventure” games, though, others took their fair share of creative liberties with the character. The same can be said about Sonic’s first live action feature.

Here, a young Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is forced to abandon his home and go to Earth using a magic ring that acts as a portal. Sonic was told to go through the portal and hide on Earth by his caretaker, Longclaw the Owl. Sonic does just that and ends up in a small Montana town, where he keeps himself a secret, but learns about human culture by watching the Sheriff Tom (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter).

While he is able to observe pop culture and sporting events from afar, though, Sonic begins to tire of being alone. In his frustration, Sonic goes for a run that’s so fast it causes an electromagnetic pulse, killing the power in the northwestern United States.In response,the government enlists Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey), a brilliant but odd scientist who begins to track Sonic with several robots.

Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

“Sonic” does bring some familiar elements from its Sega source material. Sonic is extremely fast, he can do a spin attack, and has to destroy several robots controlled by Dr. Robotnik. That’s about where the similarities end, though.

The rest of the movie is very much a standard buddy adventure flick. It’s also another movie where a human character has to team up with a CGI creature, not unlike what was featured in last year’s “Detective Pikachu.”

What helped “Detective Pikachu,” though, was that it offered audiences an unraveling mystery to give a bit more intrigue. “Sonic,” unfortunately doesn’t have much to give other than a rather generic road trip movie.

It sort of takes this fantastical character with amazing power and limits him to an average, run of the mill narrative. There’s little reason to get excited for such a pedestrian story and climax.

Not to make a direct comparison, but I’m reminded of last year’s “Alita: Battle Angel,” which had a more unique character and a fictional setting. It’s disappointing knowing the “Sonic” games have such memorable worlds and all that’s explored here is rural America in a road trip.

This is also related to the movie’s visuals. The effects here are pretty good. There’s an especially nice sequence where Sonic is running through Egypt to escape Robotnik. However, these make up only a small portion of the movie. Considering the memorable settings of the games, such as Chemical Plant Zone, A “Sonic” movie might have been better served as an animated feature.

It’s not to say this “Sonic” movie is a total loss. It’s a consumable 99 minutes with some exciting action and family humor. It’s certainly entertaining enough to hold one’s interest from start to finish.

The movie’s cast is dedicated here, too. Schwartz is solid voicing Sonic and Marsden is fine here as the supporting character. Carrey really helps things, too, as the wild antagonist Robotnik.

He’s a very eccentric character and Carrey is works very well in the role. It also helps that Tom and Robotnik have a pretty funny back and forth. It’s almost reminiscent of the banter between the characters in “Dodgeball” played by Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller.

Overall, though, “Sonic” is just a below average feature. There was a major change during the film’s production to make Sonic look different, but regardless of how he looks, it doesn’t change the lackluster story. 2.25 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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