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Sonic the Hedgehog 2020 ****

‘I feel like I’ve been running most of my life,’ suggests a surprisingly mournful Sonic the Hedgehog in this big-screen adaptation of the popular videogame from Sega. Perhaps such a melancholy, Proustian reverie is to be expected; Sonic has been running for decades now, most recently from a November release date cancelled when the internet rose in unison to complain about his teeth. Jeff Fowler’s film does feel like the results of a series of committee meetings to discuss how Sonic might work on the big screen, but it makes for an enjoyable end-product; sometimes, there’s genius in the system.

After a flash-forward opening, Sonic settles down to produce one brilliant visual joke; the theme is speed, and the point is to explain that Sonic is a fast little critter. So a visual of a tortoise crossing the road, with the creature’s speed captured by a cop’s speed-gun, is perfect in that it sets us up nicely for a hero whose speed is the diametric opposite of the slow-coach shelled creature. Sonic’s origins, a mushroom planet, are quickly sketched in, but the film relaxes into Sonic’s relationship with the cop in question, Tom Wachowski, played by James Marsden, an ideal foil for this kind of quick-fire Tex Avery-style humour. Sonic is keen to avoid being experimented on, and having lost his portal-creating rings, needs the help of the cop to travel to San Francisco and retrieve the source of his powers.

If Marsden is ideal as the side-kick, so is Jim Carrey as Dr Robotnik, a super-villain with silent movie theatrics and 90’s patter; his dance sequence is one of several breakout moments here. The best, riffing on the much imitated Time in a Bottle scene from X-Men; Days of Future Past, is a sequence in which Sonic dives into gloopy slow-mo during a bar-room brawl; set to X Ambassador’s propulsive hit Boom Boom Boom, it’s a clever, eye-popping reminder of Sonic’s almost Messianic abilities.

Most of 2020’s cinema releases don’t count towards next years awards, leaving Sonic the Hedgehog the unexpected front runner, something of a dark horse as well as a small blue hedgehog. The point may have been to capitalise on a family friendly IP; while there’s plenty of potential for lucrative cash-in, the Sonic the Hedgehog movie is a good example of friendly, relatable, family fare. And the introduction of perennial pal Tails in the post-credits sequence signals that there’s likely to be plenty more Sonic speeding our way soon…

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  1. Probably the best redemption story of 2020 so far. Thank god they didn’t go with the original design. I have wondered, however, if it was a marketing ploy from the beginning. I still do not believe that Paramount would have been Ok with running with that horrible monstrosity from the film’s first trailer. But had the original design not have been so bad, this film probably wouldn’t have even been on my radar.

    BTW, fantastic redesign on the site. Love the sleek, modern look.

    • Thanks for the positive comment! And like the website, Somic’s redesign seems to have done the trick, a redemption story indeed!

  2. I’m still having flashbacks about Transformers; Sonic was better than might have been expected, Thanks for the comment!

  3. I thought it was okay. It didn’t knock my socks off but that’s fine. I wasn’t expecting it to. There’s a lot worse game adaptations, toy adaptations, and cartoon adaptations out there. I mean it was a lot more entertaining than being subjected to most of the Transformers movies.

  4. There’s so many sub-standard movies, particularly via video games; it’s worth praising this one because they got most aspects right in terms of action and humour. And with blockbusters thin on the ground, any film that’s good for adults and kids deserves a shower of gold rings! Thanks Tony!

  5. My entire family loved this movie. Most video games turned into movies are a flop, but this one seemed to stand alone on its own as just an entertaining movie. The action was intense, the movie high paced, and Sonic a hilarious and cute little critter that was lovable. I admit that as an adult I’m probably more easily entertained by mindless action and one liners than most others, but even my wife enjoyed it. And my 11 year old, 6 year old, and 9 month loved it and if the open ending holds true, ready for part 2.

  6. Carrey’s not really had the kind of material he needs, and this is something of a comeback. But this film does deliver more than it should, in laughs, pathos and set pieces. Obviously, I’m not seriously thinking of awards here, but it should satisfy most customers. Thanks for your comment!

  7. I’m going out on a limb here, but I think what makes this film work is that it doesn’t really try to capture the action of the game; it just assumes you’ve heard of sonic and constructs a old-style popcorn movie. I’d expected a hate-watch but was pleasently surprised; go on, he’s a likeable little crittic is Sonic!

  8. Never played the game, don’t think I’ll be catching this. As Bookstooge says, the genre of video game movie doesn’t have a lot of highlights. I’ve been pretty disappointed even by the ones that are supposed to be good (Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Warcraft). I remember enjoying Mortal Kombat when it came out, but that was a long time ago.

  9. I watched the “How It Should Have Ended” recap on youtube and that was enough for me. I’ve not seen very many games to movies that I thought were a success. Doom tops the list of ones I think of as complete failures 🙁

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