Normally, I would eschew reviewing films I deem as ‘easy targets’. I can tell from watching the trailer, for example, of Peter Rabbit, that anything I say as a critic is going to mean nothing, yes it’s probably going to be awful, but it’s more of a kid-distracter than a film, this isn’t the case for all animation, of course, just some.
This film, I thought would be one such film, but given the amount of fuss it kicked up pre-launch, concerning Sonic’s horrifying first design, and subsequent delay for redesigning, made it pop up on my radar enough for me to at least acknowledge it. Plus it has Jim Carey in it, and for a long time in my teens, Jim Carey was my favourite person in the world, I still maintain a soft spot for him to this day.
Sonic as a gaming franchise previous to its cinematic debut is one that has completely passed me by as a gamer. I’m perhaps a generation too late to truly appreciate his heyday, so now I pretty much just know him as the butt-of-all-jokes he’s become since the turn of the millennium; in fact, it’s a strange decision to make a Sonic game, now he’s the subject of such derision, rather than when he was at the height of his popularity, but the film has made over $500 million dollars in its opening weekend, so what do I know? (Don’t answer that)
I’m not sure the story is worth going into detail for, it isn’t all that notable in the long run. Sonic is hiding out on Earth, told since being a child to keep his powers a secret, his loneliness at bring apart from society causes him to have, what I assume was the equivalent of a temper tantrum, causing an electronic surge, catching they eye of the government, then, inevitably, his eventually nemesis Dr Robotnik (Carrey).
The plot is basically a contrived series of events so we can establish the main bulk of the series canon, that being: Sonic = Good, Robotnik = Bad also rings, lots of rings. Although, I must say I did like how they worked Sonic’s systematic hoarding of rings into the films narrative, as a way of teleportation, that was quite clever.
While we’re praising the film, I like Sonic’s redesign, and I am positively relieved they didn’t dig their heels in and stick with the original design, I think Cats proved that terrible effects can kneecap a film aimed at families, and original Sonic would have caused kids to run screaming from the cinema.
Also, it’s delightful to see Carrey back to his goofy, mid-90s best, bringing his energetic delivery and rubber face to a whole new generation of kids, it’s been so long since he’s been this so full-of-life, maybe his part in this (and the sequel that is almost certain to happen) will revitalise his career somewhat.
Apart from that, there isn’t really much to Sonic. It’s fun enough for kids, with a few chuckles for the adults thrown in to keep us awake, but it feels so empty and vacuous; like it’s trying to sell us something, rather than sell itself as a product, it feels like an advertisement that hasn’t decided what it’s advertising.
The pieces are put together well enough, but in a way that pushes no boats out, blazes no trail, instead exists as a placeholder for a franchise it might one day become, it’s a ‘proof of concept’ more than anything, a studio showing the potential of the property as a film franchise, but it never realises that potential here.
There’s even some parts that are bold-facedly ripped-off wholesale from other, better-established properties, fans of Days of Future Past in particular might recognise a few scenes, and the characters aren’t really characters at all, but rather cardboard cut outs, just there to help Sonic in whatever he needs to do.
James Marsden is fine, but bland. He doesn’t have an stand-out trait or personality, he’s just there to one day be the realisation that ‘friendship is the true power’ otherwise known as standard hackneyed film plot #1276, despite being charismatic and charming enough, when on-screen with a Jim Carrey whose suddenly found his groove again is like watching Jimi Hendrix converse with a Star Trek extra, such is the gulf in personality and cool factor.
Character relationships aren’t fully explored, so instead we focus on Sonic, and I’m sure the creators were going for a Ryan Reynolds-esque mouthy character, but Sonic just doesn’t have the same timing or character, and just at times comes across as annoying. It does click at times, and the voice actor chosen suited the part well, I just don’t think he has the same appeal as similar characters.
Then again, all what I’ve said ultimately counts for naught, yes I found Sonic mildly irritating, and the plot and characters inoffensive and bland, that’s because it isn’t meant for me, it’s meant for the little ones, and I think it has enough charm and explosions to keep them entertained for an hour and a half, it’s certainly not a bad experience, I’ll probably never watch or care about it again, but I didn’t spent the run time wanting to take a cheese grater to my ears, which for Sonic is pretty good.
As empty and lifeless as it can seem at times, it’s leaps ahead of my expectations for it, which I admit doesn’t say much, and I’m struggling to think of how they managed to pull off a Sonic the Hedgehog film and not make it absolutely terrible; and it isn’t terrible, it’s passable, enjoyable for the kids, bearable for adults, with Jim Carrey once again finding his stride, it isn’t great, but hey, it’s something at least.