Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
Directed by Jeff Fowler
Last year, the box office took a major blow when theaters had to shut their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. At the time theaters shut down in mid-March, the February release “Sonic the Hedgehog” was the second highest-grossing 2020 release (after “Bad Boys for Life,” which released in January…”1917” had also pulled in more money, but that had technically released in 2019)—and for the rest of the year, no other movie reached Sonic’s $1.46 million dollar draw. That this movie was a Top 3 earner in any given year is pub trivia fodder that I hope I’ll remember twenty years from now.
The movie itself famously underwent an extensive remodel after the initial trailer showed a Sonic character that was disturbing to many—the eyes too small, the legs too thick, and those teeth. I shudder thinking about it. The Sonic that reemerged still looked like one of the terrifying Pokémon in the “Detective Pikachu” movie, but it did look better than before. Voiced by Ben Schwartz, Sonic has been living on Earth for a couple of years when we first meet him. He’s lonely, because as an alien hedgehog that talks, revealing himself to the world is not an option. Thank goodness he can run so fast that barely anyone can see him. But one day, Sonic accidentally causes a major power outage that triggers the maniacally evil scientist Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to investigate. Sonic will get the help of a local cop (James Marsden) to find his way to safety and hopefully to a new world, where he’ll have to make a new life for himself and start all over.
In my mind, Ben Schwartz can do no wrong (though he frequently does). The writing in this movie, though, does not do the comedian any favors. Sonic is frequently called upon to give voiceover narration, and it invariably sounds like “You’re probably wondering how I ended up here” over and over again. The comedy in the movie could have used some work. The only one who even occasionally pulls it off is Jim Carrey, but even with him I was disappointed. Despite a couple of scenes where he delivers his sub-par lines with impeccable comedic timing, mostly I realized my anticipation of his role was unjustified. I will say that Tika Sumpter, playing James Marsden’s wife, was enjoyable to watch in her small role. She got her big break in “Southside with You,” the 2016 movie about the Obamas’ meet-cute, but I am surprised I haven’t seen her in more movies in the years since.
“Sonic the Hedgehog” quickly turns into a road trip movie with a pitiable Sonic leaning on the only friend he knows, a father-figure James Marsden. It just was not the movie I thought it would be. The comedy was lacking, but even the action, which I thought promised to be frequent and fun, was barely there. I’ll inevitably watch the forthcoming sequel, but I will set my expectations low after this.