The Sonic the Hedgehog film manages to avoid the pitfalls of failed video game movies by sticking to the source material.
Video game adaptations of movies are a mixed bag; you generally expect it to closely follow the source material. There have been successful video game movies such as Tomb Raider and Detective Pikachu and flops such as Assassin’s Creed and Super Mario Bros. The Super Mario Bros. adaptation was so bad, Bob Hoskins (who played Mario) said that it was not only the worst job he’s ever done but also called it his biggest disappointment and something that he would edit out of his past in a 2007 interview. Knowing the track record of video game films, would Sonic the Hedgehog suffer the same fate as their Nintendo-based plumber rivals?
Most classic Sonic the Hedgehog media is memorable; could the live-action film create new memories?
I enjoyed watching Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog as a kid; the TV show cast Jaleel White as the voice of Sonic (he would also voice Steve Urkel in the successful African-American sitcom Family Matters) and also played Sonic games fervently in my childhood. I even was Sonic for Halloween, so this was sort of a homecoming for me after Sega significantly chucked the franchise down the toilet in the new millennium. After the fall of Sega as a console developer, the company relegated him to terrible video games on the Nintendo Gamecube, Xbox, and Xbox 360, as well as token appearances on other Nintendo consoles.
Thankfully, Paramount Pictures had bought the film rights to the franchise in 2017 and a cast of James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, and 90s comedy superstar Jim Carrey had joined the cast by 2018. The film was scheduled for a November 2019 release, but fans were upset about the Sonic design. The producers listened, and they pushed the film back to a February 14, 2020 release.
Jim Carrey turns in one of his finest performances in years.
The film avoided a major pitfall by sticking to its source material. The trailer prominently featured the Green Hill Zone from the original Sonic the Hedgehog game. While Tom Wachowski (James Marden) provides straight-man relief for Sonic’s (Ben Schwartz) 500-miles-a-minute speech patterns, the real star of the movie was Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey). The United States government begrudgingly employs Dr. Robotnik to investigate Sonic’s appearance, which sets off the events of the film.
His performance during the movie reminded me a lot of the Jim Carrey of old, who made audiences double over in movies such as Ace Ventura and Liar Liar, harkening back to his roots in physical and slapstick comedy and doing what he does best: playing over-the-top, exaggerated characters. I would go as far as to say that Carrey enhanced the role of Dr. Robotnik, who portrayed a cartoon villain in the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog series. Carrey used his experience as someone who portrayed those over-the-top and exaggerated characters and seamlessly placed it into the Dr. Robotnik character like he never missed a beat.
Although Sonic made way too many pop culture references during the film, his performance brings together the Sonic fans of old (such as myself) and younger audiences who may have never heard of him or heard about him from their parents. The film rides the wave of 90s nostalgia and revivals that have been a part of Hollywood for the past five or so years and surfs it almost perfectly from start to finish. The synchronization of the live-action and cartoon elements of the film cannot be ignored either. We hope this kicks off a long string of live-action Sonic movies, as this may be the blueprint that video game movies need to succeed.