Movie Review: 'Sonic the Hedgehog'

Blue speedster realizes there is more to life than going as fast as you possibly can.
Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Sega of America.
Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is the world's speediest hedgehog.

“Sonic the Hedgehog” is a fun and fast-paced family-friendly movie based on the iconic character from Sega Video Games. In this movie, Sonic comes to Earth, armed with a bag of gold rings which opens portals and transports him to wherever he needs to go. Life is good until Sonic encounters a dastardly villain who tries to steal his superspeed powers.

The Story

The story begins in Green Hill Zone, where a spikey-haired blue hedgehog named Sonic (Ben Schwartz) lives with extraordinary powers, such as the ability to run at the speed of sound. He is a speedster who zips and loop-de-loops under the watchful eye of Longclaw the owl (Donna Jay Fulks.) The owl encourages Sonic to keep his powers hidden, but Sonic loves being able to run as fast as he possibly can. When a tribe of achidnas (spiny anteaters) attack their home, the owl gives Sonic a bag of gold rings which opens portals to other planets and will transport him wherever he needs to go. All of a sudden, Sonic is thrust into the earth through a gold ring portal, with a warning to hide and stay on the run, because someone will always want to harness Sonic’s superspeed.  

On earth, Sonic ends up in the town of Green Hills, Montana. It is a safe place, and Sonic can zip around to his heart’s content. Sonic admires the local Sherriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and his veterinarian wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter.) He nicknames them “Donut Lord” and “Pretzel Lady” because Tom loves eating donuts and wife Maddie loves to do yoga. Sonic loves to eat Chili dogs, but his life is lonely and empty, without anyone to talk to. Sonic has a comfy home underground, but he feels isolated and alone. Sonic doesn’t know who he can trust. That’s why he watches people from a distance and keeps a low profile. Sonic manages to go unnoticed, except for a local man nicknamed “Crazy Carl” claims to have spotted a “blue devil.” 

One night, Sonic accidentally generates an electromagnetic pulse that knocks out power across the Pacific Northwest. The Department of Defense enlists a scientific expert named Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to determine the cause of the power outage. Dr. Robotnik finds and tracks Sonic, who is hiding in Sherriff Tom's shed.  In an attempt to escape, Sonic opens a portal and plans to jump into it. However, Tom discovers Sonic and (out of fear) shoots him with a tranquilizer gun. This causes Sonic to drop his bag of gold rings through a portal that ends up in San Francisco. When Sonic awakes (from being jolted by the tranquilizer gun) Tom reluctantly agrees to help Sonic find his gold rings. Together, Sonic and Tom escape to San Francisco. Meanwhile, Dr. Robotnik invades Tom's house. Dr. Robotnik finds one of Sonic's blue hair quills and determines that he will stop at nothing to find and capture Sonic the Hedgehog.  

What Parents Should Know  

“Sonic the Hedgehog” is a live-action, computer-generated imagery film that is reminiscent of “Rocky and Bulwinkle,” and maybe even “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” It’s pure slapstick, which makes this movie a good choice for children in elementary school and middle school. Even high schoolers and adults will enjoy this film, especially if they’re fans of the Sonic videogames. 

You might be wondering if there’s anything in this film that might frighten young children. It all depends on how sensitive your children are. Dr. Robotnik is a comic book-style villain with a twirled moustache. He is decked out in all black clothes and drives a black military tank with tinted windows. His vehicle has red and blue laser lights and is armed with all kinds of gadgets, such as a robotic tracking device that scans for intruders and helps him pinpoint Sonic’s location. At one point, the villain puts on some music and dances to “Tunes of Anarchy.” His dance moves and goofy mannerisms are laughably absurd (a throwback to Boris and Natasha from the old Rocky and Bulwinkle cartoons.) Dr. Robtonik is just crazy, and most children will probably find the villain to be more ditsy and daffy than scary.  

The movie contains some life and death situations, including perilous car chases with the villain sabotaging the car that Sonic and Tom are in. The villian attempts to hunt down and capture Sonic. At one point, Sonic and Tom stop to eat at a roadside bar/restaurant. Some characters are drinking beer, and a fist fight breaks out. They smash tables and chairs over each other, but it quickly becomes comedic. Sonic stops time and rearranges the bad guys in goofy positions so that they are making fools of themselves. One man is thrown out of a window, (no blood, but someone gets punched and loses a tooth in the mayhem.)  There are also skyscraper scenes with characters jumping and battling, with explosions similar to the thump-and-bash live-action found in Sonic’s video games.

Final Take 

Ultimately, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is a movie about friendship. On the road trip to San Francisco, Sonic creates a Bucket List, or list of things that he’d like to do before leaving earth. Sonic’s list includes eating a whole pizza, learning parkour, doing a slam dunk, and making a friend. That’s exactly what ends up happening. Tom protects Sonic from harm’s way, and they gradually become friends. Sonic also experiences a dramatic transformation. In the beginning of the movie, he’s immature, thrill-seeking, distracted by everything, and wanting to have fun (even if it means getting into trouble.) By the end of the movie, Sonic is calmer and wiser. He realizes that there's more to life than being a speedster, and Earth is where he belongs. 

The movie is also jam-packed with funny references to the Sonic videogames and the surrounding pop culture.  If you (or your children) are gamers, you will love the hints, icons, backdrops and tie-ins to the Sonic games. “Crazy Hank,” for instance, is a conspiracy theorist who calls Sonic a blue devil and makes a poorly drawn picture of Sonic (which is really a reference to an old internet meme.) The movie also takes place in Green Hills, which is also a name taken from the videogame. The filmmakers do a good job of respecting the fans of the Sonic videogames, and be sure to stick around after the end credits for a surprise cameo scene that hints at a movie sequel.