As video games movies go, you can do worse than Sonic the Hedgehog. Faint praise, to be sure—when your genre’s standout entries include the Tomb RaiderResident Evil, and Mortal Kombat series, you’re not exactly commanding the respect of the movie-going public—but Sonic not only works, it may just be the best of the video game movie bunch. And it’s certainly better than a handful of other movies currently stinking up the cineplex (DolittleBirds of PreyFantasy Island).

First-time director Jeff Fowler comes out of the gate at full-speed in his effort to bring the story of the universe’s fastest rodent to life. Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is constantly on the run—both from bad guys and just in general—and when we first meet him, he’s escaping the pesky Knuckles clan of echidnas. Thankfully, his protector, Longclaw the Owl, bestows a bag of teleportation rings on the little blue guy to ships him off to Earth in time.

Ten years later, Sonic is still here, hiding out alone in Green Hills, Montana, which also happens to be the home of Sheriff Tom (James Marsden) and his veterinarian wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter), who Sonic look up to (though they don’t know he’s there). He spends his days frustrated at not being able to interact with humans, and after everyone clears out of the local ballpark one night, he plays a few innings by himself (’cause he’s fast enough to play all the positions). He runs the bases so quickly, though, he causes an EMP that knocks out power in a third of the country.

This, naturally, gets the attention of the nefarious Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), who takes it upon himself to hunt down and capture Sonic. Fortunately, while hiding, Sonic is accidentally discovered by Tom, who agrees to help keep him safe.

There is also a subplot involving Tom’s potential career move to San Francisco (which ties in perfectly with Sonic needing to get there to recover his lost bag of teleportation rings), but none of it really matters in the long run. The movie is simple cat-and-mouse silliness all the way, and an overly convoluted script (given the target audience) by Pat Casey and Josh Miller isn’t needed. There are, however, some decent one-liners sprinkled in along the way (including a running Olive Garden joke) to keep adults reasonably pleased.

Of course, all the headlines heading into Sonic revolved around the disastrous (so I’m told) initial design of the character, which Fowler remedied (so I’m told) in time for the release. I’m not sure how transforming the guy from a lithe ferret into a svelte stuffed animal makes that much difference, but as we all know, the uproar was deafening. So… phew.

What was keeping me up at night, though, was the prospect of Carrey ruining this thing by giving us some heinously over-the-top mash-up of Ace Ventura and The Riddler, but the rubber-faced one wisely toned it down, only pushing the Carrey dial to 6 or 7 instead of the usual 11. Kudos also to Natasha Rothwell as Maddie’s anti-Tom sister, who emerges from Sonic as the scene-stealer extraordinaire.

With a not-too-subtle, open-ended post-credits scene that will have the kiddos screaming for a sequel, it’s clear the folks at Paramount are banking on Sonic being the first entry in a long and healthy franchise, and, frankly, that might not be the worst idea. Heck, it will at least be better than Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.


3/5 stars