When the first trail­er for Son­ic the Hedge­hog was released in 2019, fans were hor­ri­fied by CGI Sonic’s beady lit­tle eyes and human teeth — an uncan­ny val­ley hor­ror. He had a face that was ask­ing a lot of a moth­er to love, let alone movie­go­ers. So Para­mount pushed back the movie’s release date and brought in ani­ma­tor Tyson Hesse, art direc­tor for Son­ic Mania Adven­tures, to lead the redesign. Not only did the ani­ma­tors go above and beyond in fix­ing Son­ic to look more like his video game ori­gins, but they might’ve saved the movie.

The new Son­ic is so adorable that it almost makes up for a pret­ty gener­ic plot and a human cast that play the roles of “hero­ic” and “bad” so straight, they could be extras in The Good Place. To run away from vil­lains after his super­speed pow­er, Son­ic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) leaves his plan­et via mag­i­cal por­tal rings to find him­self on Earth in the small town of Green Hills. We find out that his fast-talk­ing per­son­al­i­ty is basi­cal­ly a result of 10 years of intense iso­la­tion, hav­ing to hide from the towns­peo­ple and keep him­self enter­tained by talk­ing to him­self. After caus­ing an ener­gy surge that shuts down the town’s pow­er, the gov­ern­ment sends Dr. Robot­nik (Jim Car­rey) to inves­ti­gate. Son­ic part­ners up with good-heart­ed sher­iff Tom (James Mars­den), and the two devel­op a bro­mance the way men are pre­scribed to in movies, through a road trip and a bar fight.

Image: Para­mount

Ulti­mate­ly, Son­ic is a children’s movie that rec­og­nizes it may be kids’ first intro­duc­tion to the hedge­hog, so it makes min­i­mal ref­er­ences to the video game world he comes from and spends more time allud­ing to things they might get. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the gags seem a few years too late, imme­di­ate­ly dat­ing them­selves: there are mul­ti­ple jokes about Olive Garden’s unlim­it­ed pas­ta. Son­ic does the floss dance not once, but twice. They make jokes about Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furi­ous. (Actu­al­ly, this one will prob­a­bly stay rel­e­vant for as long as they keep mak­ing FF movies, which is for­ev­er.)

The movie shines when it remem­bers it’s based on a video game, and there’s some gen­uine­ly fun stuff — like when Son­ic uses his time-stop­ping pow­ers or Robotnik’s elab­o­rate “evil-plot­ting” mon­tage that makes you won­der why more movies don’t fea­ture bad guys with chore­o­graphed dance sequences. Car­rey plays up Robot­nik as the car­toon vil­lain he is, and it’s a true delight to watch him in his ele­ment. And — spoil­ers ahead — the end cred­its hint at a sequel fea­tur­ing Tails and an even more unhinged Robot­nik going full-on Eggman.

Image: Para­mount

But when most of the movie takes place in non­de­script city-ville (comes in two fla­vors: small town and big con­crete build­ings ‘n streets), it’s hard to not to think back to the lush Emer­ald Hill Zone plan­et the movie show­cased for maybe 30 sec­onds. I wish it took place there instead. Son­ic the Hedge­hog could have gone from a good to a great movie not by bring­ing Son­ic into the human world, but by bring­ing audi­ences into his. Maybe we should just be thank­ful that the movie was watch­able at all. Sonic’s suc­cess hinges on the char­ac­ter being lik­able, and the redesigned Son­ic is easy to love.

Old Son­ic ver­sus new Son­ic. Image: Para­mount Image: Para­mount

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