sat 19/09/2020

Sonic the Hedgehog review - stuck in first gear | reviews, news & interviews

Sonic the Hedgehog review - stuck in first gear

Sonic the Hedgehog review - stuck in first gear

Bizarrely slow-motion effort to exploit Sega's speedster

Running down: Sonic the Hedgehog

An early trailer for this adaptation of the ‘90s games franchise caused Cats­-like horror at its overly humanoid Hedgehog.

An early trailer for this adaptation of the ‘90s games franchise caused Cats­-like horror at its overly humanoid Hedgehog. Rather than the former film’s risky freak-show, though, this diligently redesigned Sonic is the most safely saccharine family movie imaginable.

Given the basic premise of a fast blue anthropomorphic critter, a Road Runner-style animated chase movie would seem the obvious choice (one made by 1993’s Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon series). Instead, after a cynical origin story splicing Spider-Man and Bambi, in which Sonic’s slain mother-figure explains that great power doesn’t mean great responsibility, but that “someone will always want it”, our hero tumbles to Earth in Green Hills, a sleepy Montana smalltown overseen by square-jawed cop Tom (James Marsden). “I feel like I’ve been running my whole life,” Sonic sighs, twisting the definition of a Sega platform game into existential angst. Unleashing his full super-speed then attracts the government’s pet mad scientist Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey, pictured below), triggering a strangely leisurely pursuit across America.

Robotnik (Jim Carrey) in Sonic the HedgehogThere are mildly inventive moments, such as a bar-fight which becomes an intricate, frozen tableau as Sonic zooms between the combatants at hyper-speed, the traumatised tortoise he takes on a run, and his knowing penchant for ‘90s movies.

Carrey also attempts to locate his ‘90s comic prime, but rarely approaches the manic physical and vocal edge which once made him so remarkable. Though he makes Robotnik genuinely nasty, his jokes are flatly mistimed, like a rusty boxer’s flailing, futile jabs. Instead of a welcome comeback for this most cartoon-like of comedy stars, Sonic feels like an undignified demotion.

The decision to make this a mostly live-action film set in a resolutely slow-paced, amiably conservative backwoods American town is so bizarrely counter-intuitive it’s almost admirable. Tom’s unremarked mixed-race marriage to Maddie (Tika Sumpter), still uncommon in Hollywood films, and Robotnik’s condescension to a provincial town which proves robustly decent, backs up Sonic’s contention that Green Hills is “the best place in the whole world”. Director Jeff Fowler and writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller are all Midwestern, perhaps explaining their unfashionable stand for smalltown America as a languid but morally alert, very un-Trumpian utopia. The US government, by contrast, is represented by doddering generals who casually employ a psychopath.

Tom (James Marsden) in Sonic the HedgehogThis possible subtext aside, Sonic remains a racing car stuck in first gear. Every time you expect it to rev up, it slows down, as if anaesthetised by Green Hills’ mountain air. It’s a Sega game trapped in an old Disney live-action flick, pleasantly modest but fossilised. Anyway having no creative reason to exist beyond serving a franchise in another medium, it’s remarkably dull.

Whether intended by Sega to dragoon a generation of children currently oblivious to Sonic, or by Paramount to woo nostalgic 40-year-olds, the film falls into a demographic chasm. And as one blockbuster after another made due to brand recognition disappears into the void – Cats, Dolittle, even Star Wars – perhaps Parasite’s Oscars will make Hollywood consider originality as a last resort. Right now its idea of mainstream entertainment is fatally flawed. 

It’s a Sega game trapped in an old Disney flick, pleasantly modest but fossilised

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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