‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ Reviews Are In, And He Needed Much More Than A Makeover
"Sonic does the floss dance not once, but twice."
Sonic The Hedgehog has sped into cinemas worldwide, and the first set of reviews suggest that the film needed much more than a face-lift to fix it.
Last May, Sony delayed the film after its first trailer was mocked relentlessly for Sonic‘s uncanny valley look and human teeth. With new CGI-directors in place to save the film (aka, not make your skin crawl), Sonic‘s re-vamped look is much cuter, less abject terror.
But the mess of it all did give the film much more press than it probably deserves, piquing our interest as to how this children’s film would turn out.
Would it be like Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, which between its noir-tone, Rita Ora cameo and batshit body-snatching plot actually ended up being pretty watchable — arguably, even good? Or would it be completely vacuous cash-squeeze of a long-irrelevant IP? If you guessed the latter, then congrats, you’re right! Who would’ve thought.
In his two-star review, the Guardian’s Steve Rose calls the film limp, writing that “few but diehard fans and young children will be charmed by this predictable, derivative caper”. He criticises its lack of personality, even going so far to call Parks & Recreation‘s Ben Schwartz’s Sonic a “sub-Reynolds”. Ouch.
He also thinks Sonic remains “a bizarre sight” post-makeover, suggesting that the film’s choice to bring the alien (??) to Earth was mis-guided, something echoed by The Verge‘s equally apathetic review.
“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,” Dami Lee writes.
Indiewire agree, with critic David Ehrlich saying that the film’s plot and world lags when it should zip. He’s particularly critical of the road-trip aspect of the film, which puts Sonic and sheriff Tom (James Marsden) in a car for much of the film. By slowing down Sonic for plot and logistics, the film suffers.
“Everything about Sonic is screaming for more of a slapstick feel, but the limits of the physical world can’t help but cut the film off at the knees,” he writes. “We’re left with a joyless ride that has the stir-crazed energy of a bored kid who’s been stuck in a car for too long, and the fact that Sonic literally personifies that vibe only underscores the problem.”
Its jokes are also pretty dated: “there are multiple jokes about Olive Garden’s unlimited pasta,” writes Lee. “Sonic does the floss dance not once, but twice.”
There are some positives, though.
Lee loves Sonic himself, calling him “so adorable that [he] 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.” It’s still, uh, a back-handed compliment.
But critics are in agreement that Jim Carrey is excellent in the film as villain Dr. Robotnik, using his skills as a physical comedian to great effect, recalling the likes of Ace Ventura or Dumb and Dumber. Vulture has already written an ode to Carrey as the best part of Sonic, ending with “the film’s fine, but the villain’s a delight”.
Then again, he’s almost too good. Variety reckon “the contrast between the leaden pseudo-brashness of the rest of the movie and the ‘ping!‘ of Carrey’s dialogue is so marked that it almost feels like he made up his entire character on the spot”, while Rose keeps it short and sweet.
“[Carey’s] far more animated than Sonic,” he writes. “And far too good for this.”
Of course, this is a kids movie, and most reviewers concede that children will probably enjoy it. But there’s a disappointment over the film’s choice to play it so safe, especially with an IP drenched in millennial nostalgia: while no-one’s asking for an MA15+ Sonic film, it could’ve played to both audiences.
Sonic The Hedgehog is out in cinemas February 13, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Reviews seem to suggest you walk, not run, to see it.