“I’m not in the mood to get probed today.” “You think you’re worried? I’m not even wearing pants!” And so goes the humor of Sonic the Hedgehog, 2020’s adaptation of the classic ‘90’s SEGA video game. That conversation takes place between our furry hero and his new best bud, Jim Wachowski (James Marsden), police chief of the small rural town of Great Hills, Montana. You see, both individuals want something grander: Sonic wants to live a normal life where his blue alien butt won’t get wrecked by government officials, and Jim wants to prove that he is capable of more than manning a rarely-trafficked speed trap – specifically, he wants to save lives. He gets his chance when he accidentally stumbles upon the titular spiky-haired rogue, who is being chased by Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey), a drone-obsessed evil genius who wants to harness Sonic’s power for his own dastardly deeds. Sonic is in the middle of an existential crisis, and in a fit of mad rage he emitted an electrical surge from his body that knocked out power across half the United States. Yep. Plot is beside the point when you are adapting something this inane, and screenwriters Patrick Haley and Josh Miller barely seem invested in the proceedings. Who could blame them? Sonic and Jim team up to get back his magical gold rings, which serve as portals that can send him anywhere in the universe. The rings were given to him by a giant owl that, as we witness in the film’s opening, sacrificed its own life so that Sonic could live. Ok.
Before long, the film turns into a road trip comedy with a pair of mismatched buddies, although they really aren’t that mismatched save for the aesthetic differences and the fact that one is 12 and the other roughly 45, a fact which the film doesn’t even bother to address, thank God. Sonic and Jim’s relationship is unclear; at times they have something akin to a father/son bond, while at other points they are just a couple of wacky dudes looking for a good time. This includes a trip to a biker bar, which is apparently something on Sonic’s bucket list, and no, I’m not making any of this up. When Sonic’s appearance at said bar is questioned, Jim explains that his friend is, “42 years old and suffers from a skin condition,” a joke which I can’t even begin to unpack. They get in a bar fight, crib from the Quicksilver/slow-motion scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past, and then Sonic shoots out a chili dog wet fart at their motel.
This is another in a lineage of obnoxious “family comedies” that traffics in “adult” humor in a bid to make parents in the audience chuckle with glee, but only works to make the entire audience uneasy.
Now is when I must stress that I honestly have no idea who this for. This is another in a lineage of obnoxious “family comedies” that traffics in “adult” humor in a bid to make parents in the audience chuckle with glee, but only works to make the entire audience uneasy. Aside from that anal probe joke mentioned above, we also get gags about breast-feeding, bullying, hipsters, and the stupidity of small-town, middle-class individuals. This film really hates the citizens of the Heartland. Everything here is familiar and lazy, from the biker bar interlude that feels like a half-hearted homage to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, down to the use of the name Wachowski, which I’m guessing is a tip of the hat to the famous filmmaking siblings’ 2008 adaptation of Speed Racer. Talented individuals ranging from Adam Pally to Tika Sumpter to Neal McDonough are given absolutely nothing to do. Carrey, playing an individual described at one point as “a psychological tire fire,” (Ok, I did laugh at that one), is certainly giving it his all and is the best thing the movie has going, but he could perform this role in his sleep. Marsden, meanwhile, continues his quest to become this generation’s Brendan Fraser, having appeared in 2011’s similarly-themed live action/animated hybrid/nightmare Hop.
Ben Schwartz, on the other hand, clearly did a couple days worth of voice work and probably picked up a pretty sweet check in the process, so I will let him off the hook. Why this twelve-year-old hedgehog sounds like a thirtysomething man who may or may not be “open-minded as heeeee-llllll” is open to interpretation, as is the film’s message, which I guess is something along the lines of, “embrace what makes you different, don’t run from it.” Pardon my confusion, though, as not only does Sonic live to run, but the film ends with the Wachowski family totally pulling an Anne Frank on the little guy and letting him live in their attic so as to hide him from those nefarious government officials. I would call it insensitive bordering on offensive, but I’m certain more thought was put into this review than the screenplay, and to be brutally honest, I’m kind of half-assing this one.