Sonic the Hedgehog’s film bludgeons the character into blandness

Now in cinemas, Jim Carrey and James Marsden star in live-action family adventure Sonic the Hedgehog. Based on the popular Sega videogame franchise, our resident Sonic nerd Liam Maguren saw the film and calls it a “blindingly forgettable experience.”

The first Sonic the Hedgehog trailer introduced a frightening version of SEGA’s speedy icon, a monstrous crossbred of a living blue Furby and a soulless human child. After an incredible amount of internet backlash, Paramount made the audacious decision to change Sonic’s design mid-production to something more representative of his family-friendly videogame form. A shame they didn’t rewrite the script, too.

Now we have the motion picture, a fish-out-of-water story copy-pasted from the ET blueprint where the alien is the fast hedgehog, the boy is James Marsden, and The Government is Jim Carrey. Anyone hoping to spend time in a cinematic depiction of Green Hill Zone from Sonic’s first game better soak up the film’s first minute because that’s all you’ll get before he realm-hops to the far more boring world of Green Hills, South Dakota. A damn shame, really, since it’s a good-looking minute that makes you long for a completely animated Sonic feature.

This live-action version is essentially a chase film, which makes complete sense for the character, if only it wasn’t constantly halted with nonsense. The most annoying story beat sees the heroic pair (while running for their lives) make a pit-stop at an old-fashioned American bar so that Sonic can line-dance, play darts, and blatantly rip off the Quicksilver slo-mo sequence from X-Men: Days of Future Past. This bar scene lasts ten minutes.

At least Ben Schwartz (Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Rec) gives it a good go as the voice of Sonic. Where lesser actors would have played his hyperactive nature to ear-bleeding levels of screech, Schwartz keeps him relatively mellow and likeable. I also give my blessings to Marsden and Carrey, two men who prove their worth as comedic geniuses by fashioning something out of a script that gives them nothing.

And by ‘nothing’, I really mean the white noise of cringy pop-culture references unnecessarily shoehorned into the film. There’s a shout-out to Rhianna, a grown man saying “OMG,” Sonic doing The Floss (twice)… It’s as if the writers spent 20 minutes on TikTok and 40 minutes Googling ‘what are the kids into?’ then made a feature-length screenplay from their hour of research.

So it’s somewhat amazing that Carrey still manages to haul in a solid joke or three. From a random throat-punch to a throwaway line about never being breastfed, these must-be-adlibbed gags gift this film the oddness it desperately requires. You only need to see Sonic’s social media platforms to realise the joyously silly meme-fueled madness this property’s turned into. Unfortunately, aside from an admittedly cute reference to ‘sanic‘, the film has zero interest in being truly absurd, choosing instead to bludgeon the character into blandness with a dull setting, an incredibly thin message about friendship, and action scenes that are never beyond ‘passable’.

Look, it was never going to be easy turning an insane concept like Sonic—a super-fast blue rodent with a ring fetish—into a broadly-appealing film, but Sonic the Hedgehog‘s absolute refusal to lean into its own weirdness has resulted in a predictably wholesome, blindingly forgettable experience. While it may prove consumable for unfussy families, it made me long for the alternative universe cut starring the mutant nightmare hog we were originally promised. For all the grief Tom Hooper’s Cats got for its use of CGI, at least it fully committed to its lunacy. Guess which film we’ll still be talking about in five years.