Sonic the Hedgehog 2020 Film Review

November 8, 2020 by  
Filed under Features, Reviews & Features, Films, Other

Director: Jeff Fowler

Cast: Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Ben Schwartz (Sonic) 

Genre: CGI, Live-Action, Adventure 

Age Rating: PG 

Release Date: February 14th 2020

Runtime: 1hr 40mins

Sonic the Hedgehog saw his big film debut on the big screen on 14th Feb 2020, Valentine’s Day, but how much love should you give this game-adaptation? 

Off the bat, the film is definitely one for fans, so if you have no connection to the character, the games, or any of the lore, then you’ll find little here to keep you invested. To the outsider, the premise will simply be: kindly alien comes to earth, kindly alien gets discovered, evil government agent wants to do evil things to said kindly alien, cue virtuous human roped in to help kindly alien. Like E.T, but not quite in the same film clique. 

For fans however, a lot more appreciation can be given, and as a Sonic fan myself, I can tell effort has been put into the film. On opening, there are call-backs to Sonic games of old, and there are many references to the franchise throughout, most of which will fall over the heads of someone who hasn’t played anything to do with the character. Sonic’s personality, besides feeling a bit whiny and grating at times, is mostly his usual upbeat, wise-cracking self, and Jim Carrey, as Dr. Robotnik aka Eggman, gives a decent enough performance, even though the hype surrounding him may have been a bit overrated. While Carrey mostly acts like “90’s Jim Carrey” – over-the-top, erratic, pulls funny faces – he certainly doesn’t bring the same energy or enthusiasm to the role (but then he’s hardly a spring chicken anymore, what with pushing nearly 60 years old).   

Sonic’s original design was mercilessly mocked and memed online. We can all agree the new design is better, even though the studio that made it unfortunately closed.

The films core audience is children, but it also tries to balance the plot for adults too, with some “rude humour” as the Certificate claimed at the start of the film, and while I noted a couple of “adult” jokes, mostly the film decides to play it safe. That’s how the entire Sonic the Hedgehog Movie can be defined – it is a safe movie. Whilst it was going to take a huge risk with Sonic’s design before the unanimously scouring criticisms came pouring in, leading to a swift change in his design, that was probably the only risk they were going take. Otherwise, the film is simply safe. 

No characters are largely unlikeable, the story plods along enjoyably enough, though credit should be given to the final fight between Dr. Robotnik and Sonic, whereby Sonic attacks Dr. Robotnik’s flying spacebot using his spin attack from the games, and also taking their fight to other countries using Sonic’s special teleportation rings, racing through the likes of France and Egypt. It’s a fun and frenetic finale. 

As the script was in development for some time, there are some pop culture jokes that immediately date the film. Sonic performs the “floss” dance featured in Fortnite, the move becoming an internet sensation well over a year before its release, and Dr. Robotnik’s sidekick, Agent Stone, states that Robotnik thinks an Army Major is “basic” when comparing the two’s achievements, a popular insult from around 2015/2016, to name a couple. It gives the film a slight cringe factor if you know when certain references were at their most widespread, and makes it all the more obvious the writers were trying to make the film relevant and “down with the kids”. 

Graphically, while a lot of work did go in to making Sonic look as real as possible, at times it is noticeable that he is nothing more than CGI, such as when being carried by Sheriff Tom, or when he is sitting in the car, though of course for the younger audience, that won’t be too much of an issue. There are a couple of well-kept surprises in the film, which will not be spoiled here, but needless to say the film is left open for a sequel (which has been confirmed for 2022). 

The obvious and plentiful amount of product placements irked some viewers, and some are rather pointless for UK audiences (we don’t have Olive Garden).

Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog was fun to watch, and as a fan I can appreciate the effort, especially the final credits sequence which shows certain scenes from the film in Sonic’s classic 2D pixelation from his early games. I didn’t care much for the end credit music, again, trying to be “down with the kids”, on par with the rapping in the main theme of Sonic ’06. This style of music in a Sonic game just doesn’t work for me, the only exception being Knuckles’ smooth hip hop tunes in Sonic Adventure 2.

For a film also aimed at children, the kids in my cinema never really laughed a lot; one scene I heard a few giggles (and not the fart scene), and while the older ones seemed invested, there was definitely some fidgeting about by the younger viewers even before the halfway mark. 

With Sonic the Hedgehog Movie being rather tame, the sequel will no doubt expand on the Sonic universe, and hopefully will take a few more risks story-wise, but as a first outing for Sonic, Sonic the Hedgehog successfully sets up the universe for more Sonic adventures to come.