One of the most-hated trailers of all time ended up being a decent movie.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Ben Schwartz) can run fast. As a kid, he was being watched over by an owl named Longclaw (Donna Jay Fulks) until a group of echidnas attacked, trying to capture Sonic for his powers. Sonic used a warp ring to escape to Earth, specifically in Green Hills, Montana. He stays hidden for many years until his presence is detected and the US government sends Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) after him. Sonic seeks help from the local sheriff, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), to help him keep out of the Doctor’s clutches.
So, if you are on the internet, you probably saw, or at least heard about, the original Sonic the Hedgehog trailer. It showcased the long-awaited film redesign of Sonic the Hedgehog and, to say the least, it was awful. The production company said that they’d assumed that, while die-hard Sonic fans would dislike it, that the redesign would appeal to the audience at large, like the Michael Bay Ninja Turtles. THEY WERE VERY, VERY WRONG. Not only did it not resemble ANY incarnation of Sonic the Hedgehog up until this point, it was just genuinely unpleasant to look at. The idea appeared to be to make Sonic look more humanoid than his original design, but instead it not only plunged the character into the uncanny valley, it hit the bottom and started digging for Uncanny China. There may have been no more universally despised image on the internet the day that trailer dropped, and that’s saying something since the internet is the place where Lemon Party was born. The use of “Gangsta’s Paradise” in the trailer did not help either, since it seemed out of place for what was clearly a movie for very young children.
Surprisingly, the fan reaction actually did something in this case. In response to everyone calling the film an “abomination,” Director Jeff Fowler agreed to redesign the character and postpone the release of the film, despite the fact that it added $5,000,000 to the budget. The minute they released the second trailer with the redesign, I think most of the world agreed that was money well-spent. The new design pretty much matched up with most of the video game and television versions of Sonic. It was definitely cartoony, but… well, he’s a cartoon. Giving him a more inhuman makeup actually made it easier to believe he was there on the screen. I would advise people to see this movie if only because something like this, delaying a film to correct a mistake, should be rewarded. However, as I pointed out at the time, I still was worried about the movie because it was made by people who thought that the original design was viable for a kids movie, rather than my darkest nightmares. The fact that it was released at the same time as Detective Pikachu’s trailer, which managed to make a solid live-action and animated world out of Pokemon, only added to my unease.
I’ll preface my review with this: I wasn’t drunk enough for this film. My plan was to be just shy of blackout and I was only 2 strong drinks in (effectively 7 shots of liquor). I would recommend everyone else who sees this have a blood alcohol over .125 (don’t drive after). You’ll need it to get through some of the scenes in this movie. If you’re in a state that allows for the legal consumption of cannabis, then that’s probably going to help too. This movie should be experienced with an altered state. If you choose to see it sober, though, I will say it’s not the worst thing.
Thanks to the redesign and Ben Schwartz’s voice acting, Sonic actually is a fairly entertaining character. I should really emphasize Schwartz’s performance, because he makes a lot of terrible lines sound half-decent just through his vocal charisma. While the character does have some issues with being overpowered (he gets two “Quicksilver/Flashtime” scenes), the film does a good job finding ways to keep conflicts legitimate. While he lacks the brash confidence of traditional depictions, the fact that he’s been isolated for 10 years justifies some of his more pronounced eccentricities and they’re played out in clever ways, including having him (somehow) play baseball with himself. James Marsden’s character, while pretty generic, still has some fun lines and moments of sincerity. However, the big standout in the film is Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik. He is nothing like his video game counterpart in terms of background, abilities, and appearance, but he almost completely nails the insanity and the need to prove his superiority of the original character. He is so cartoonishly over the top that he perfectly matches the literal cartoonishness of his foe. It’s really entertaining to watch.
The biggest hole in this film is the writing. It’s unsurprising, I guess, but perhaps the two guys who wrote National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze 2 weren’t the best team to give a kids movie. I’m sure it didn’t help that the film has been pitched and worked on since 1993, when Sonic the Hedgehog was actually relevant. Because of these factors, it’s not surprising that this film can’t manage a consistent tone in either the humor or the characterizations. It goes from having relatively clever jokes to base fart humor frequently and Sonic frequently switches emotional states for no reason other than “conflict needs to happen now.” The plot is so generic I could have easily mapped a dozen other movies onto the same outline. Literally every character arc feels forced and sometimes completely ridiculous. There’s a subplot involving James Marsden’s sister-in-law that comes out of nowhere, is recycled from 1950s comedies, and just flat-out feels like filler. It’s not well written, is what I’m saying.
It doesn’t help that I am a massive Sonic the Hedgehog fan. Like, I own a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog comic issue #7. I have strong opinions about who Sonic’s love interest should be (Sally Acorn) and why it was super creepy that they had Amy Rose age herself to an adult magically just so they could use her character as his potential partner in Sonic Adventure (she’s still 12 mentally). I PLAYED SHADOW THE HEDGEHOG. All of my love for the series, admittedly, made it harder for me to enjoy parts of this film. I managed to get past the inconsistencies with Sonic’s traditional backstory and powers, but I also got pulled out of it when they would actually reference the source material. However, my biggest letdown was that part of the film takes place in San Francisco, the inspiration for the City Escape level in Sonic Adventure 2, and they didn’t use the song. Aside from the music created for the series created by Michael Jackson, that was the best musical number in the entire franchise, it would have fit perfectly, and yet… nope.
Overall, though, this movie could have been much worse. Kids are definitely going to like it. I just hope that for the sequel they spend that additional $5,000,000 hiring some decent script doctors (OR ME).
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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