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Sonic the Hedgehog

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Sonic the Hedgehog
dir Jeff Fowler
scr Patrick Casey, Josh Miller
prd Neal H Moritz, Takeshi Ito, Toru Nakahara
with James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Adam Pally, Lee Majdoub, Natasha Rothwell, Melody Niemann, Neal McDonough, Tom Butler, Frank C Turner, Michael Hogan
release US/UK 14.Feb.20
20/US Paramount 1h39

schwartz carrey sumpter

marsden and sonic
Snappy and very silly, this action-comedy will keep children engaged without annoying parents too much, thanks to witty dialog and a hilarious performance from Jim Carrey in shameless scene-stealing mode. If only the effects were more seamless, as the animated title character is never properly photoreal, so he doesn't quite seem like he's in the scenes with the humans. But kids won't mind that at all.
Zapped across the universe to escape his destiny, Sonic (voiced by Schwartz) is a sort of blue hedgehog. He lives in a rural Montana forest and longs for a family like the one Sheriff Tom (Marsden) has with wife Maddie (Sumpter) and their golden retriever. When Sonic accidentally sets off a power burst, the government sends private contractor genius Dr Robotnik (Carrey) to investigate with his loyal sidekick Stone (Majdoub) and army of drones. And now Robotnik is determined to get Sonic into a lab where he can distill his energy for nefarious purposes.
Director Fowler keeps everything bouncing along frenetically. Characters have a zingy goofiness to them, constantly making amusing observations that thankfully distract from the rather simplistic plot and bizarre premise. Sonic's back story, recounted in a prolog, is far too sketchy to develop much interest. And the rather substandard character animation leaves him looking plasticky. But this is overcome by Schwartz' lively voice work, which gives Sonic a hyperactive teen attitude.

That might be insufferable if it weren't for the always-watchable Marsden. He rolls his eyes at Sonic, but deploys the kind of banter that leads into a resonant connection. Side relationships are less defined; Sumpter's Maddie gets little to do until the final act, while Pally's dopey deputy never has a punchline. Meanwhile, Carrey's impeccable comical timing fills each madcap line of dialog, evil-genius dance and snappy put-down. He also manages to make the story's more unoriginal set-pieces entertaining.

As a slice of wacky fun, this film definitely does the trick. It's quick and funny, with just enough tension to lock kids on the edge of their seats, and a constant stream of verbal and visual gags to keep everyone chuckling. So it's surprising that more effort wasn't put into the design of the central character, from integrating him better with the live action to making his quills look perhaps even a little like a hedgehog. But that's just a quibble for an absurdly colourful movie that leaves us with a smile on our face.

cert pg themes, violence, language 9.Feb.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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