As film fans, there’s always a handful of films that we allow to pass us by. This isn’t usually a comment on their quality or our willingness to enjoy them – sometimes, we’re just a little late to the party.
Sonic the Hedgehog‘s status as a video game movie set a low bar long before its release. Its general reputation is good, but having missed it upon its initial release, I remained skeptical of its quality.
Within its first few scenes, Sonic the Hedgehog establishes how charming it is. It’s decidedly unoffensive, stuffed with pop culture references and vaguely self-aware humor, and the voice talents of Ben Schwartz are instantly put to good use. However, even in its opening scene, Sonic seems to be trying too hard, and that’s a trend that continues throughout its runtime.
The problem with Sonic the Hedgehog is its tone. Though it does its best to maintain a very specific brand of cartoonish yet self-aware humor, this quickly becomes somewhat tiresome. However, despite this, its well-paced and surprisingly coherent story keeps it afloat even after Sonic’s ceaseless jabbering has become grating. Jim Carrey’s Robotnik is one of the film’s best aspects; his own humor is injected into the character in one of his funniest performances in years, making certain scenes genuinely funny while also establishing what sort of villain he is.
What makes Sonic less enjoyable is its tone. The film itself seems unsure which demographic to pander to, so it simply panders to everyone by making countless references to the Sonic games, multiple movies and songs from the past three decades, and numerous jokes that have already aged terribly (like Sonic flossing multiple times for no apparent reason). This makes Sonic the Hedgehog feel like a family film that’s also not aimed at families, making it unclear exactly who the target audience is.
The constant shoehorning of pop culture references into the film’s passable story makes the film feel forced. It seems to be vaguely intended as fan service or an attempt to make use of the MCU’s winning Easter egg formula, but it just comes across as cheap and unearned.
With action sequences rendered in CGI that look relatively good, Sonic the Hedgehog certainly achieves what it sets out to do. It’s a soundly entertaining family film, although doesn’t hold up particularly well under close scrutiny. It’s far from a great film, but it lands just on the right side of average, and it’s got a number of genuinely funny moments to bolster the action enough to make it enjoyable (to a point).
Summary: Sonic the Hedgehog is the product of a very specific age of blockbuster. It’s the clear beginning of an intended franchise, stuffed with Easter eggs and sequel teases that simply don’t feel organic, but moments of genuine humor make it relatively enjoyable regardless.
Highlights: Jim Carrey’s Robotnik dance number is an outstanding piece of physical comedy from the master.