Sonic the Hedgehog (PG)
Over the summer, Tom Hooper's feature film of the stage musical Cats was hung, drawn and quartered by the power of the people. The people of the internet, that is. As the first viewers came out of that film's first sessions, their scathing Tweets and Facebook posts decided the film's box office success, and not even the issuing in the film's second week of an updated version with less creepy CGI could save it.
The internet is a harsher critic than I could ever hope to be. When the teaser trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie was released online in April of 2019, the internet was not amused. Initially, the CGI design for the animated blue hedgehog was a little different. Online commenters noticed that Sonic's teeth and fingernails looked human, the animators went for too life-like an effect and it was coming out creepy. One newspaper predicted the film might be the "worst video game tie-in of all time".
Where the producers of Sonic the Hedgehog went right, and where Tom Hooper went so wrong, is that they listened to the audience comments, and Hooper did not.
The Sonic release was delayed while the animators went back to the drawing board, making Sonic a bit more cartoonish. The result being, and again unlike a viewing of Cats, the audience can suspend their disbelief, are not distracted by ill-thought-out effects, can take this film in on its own merits.
Sonic the Hedgehog is great fun. A goofy comedy with a silly childlike protagonist that younger audiences will adore, and their adult chaperones will warmly relate to their own childhoods of hours lost on their Sega consoles. In idyllic Green Hills, Montana, Sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) dreams of moving his wife (Tika Sumpter) and dog to San Francisco where he can protect and serve in a more meaningful way than he is able to in his safe home town.
Unknown to him is that his idyllic existence has a tourist along for the ride. A small blue alien hedgehog from another planet has been spying on Tom's life, watching his television through the window on movie nights, and wishing he was a part of the family.
When Sonic accidentally releases some of his special alien energy, causing a massive power blackout, he gives his location away to government forces, who send Dr Robotnik (Jim Carey) to retrieve the alien.
Video game feature film adaptations are rarely masterpieces of cinema, but they're often fun.
The fun here is in the screenplay from Patrick Casey and Josh Miller, who write Sonic as a goofball throwing out weak one-liners and doing the floss. A certain third grader in our family is going to love him. For the grown-ups though, the real fun is Jim Carey who mines all of his own tropes for the perfectly hammy Dr Robotnik. Carey hasn't felt this fun for such a long time. For many of the younger audience this film will attract, this will be their first time experiencing Carey's physical gags, his rubber-faced reactions, his catch-phrases. Lucky devils.
Fun aside, the screenplay is a little light on. No twists-and-turns, just a bread-and-butter script, following linear fashion, not too confusing and thinking of its junior target audience.
The production is dependable, with plenty of visual references for those who have played the Sega video game. I'd give a note to the makeup team, however, for their overly-liberal application of foundation. James Marsden has a distinctly Trumpian orange glow in some scenes.