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Review: Sonic the Hedgehog Movie

Let’s start by stating the obvious: video game movies tend towards being some of the worst movies out there. The movie translations are often cheesy, unfaithful to the source material, and lacking in terms of production quality and value.

So, when Sonic came running onto the video adaptation scene, it looked like it was heading for a stumble — especially when you consider the drama over how Sonic first looked and the stigma surrounding video game movies in general. But director Jeff Fowler has always reminded fans of the series that he was one of them and that he would not do anything to harm Sega’s most beloved mammal.

If you didn’t take a running shot at Sonic The Hedgehog back when it was in theatres, I highly urge you to get out of the starting blocks now! The hour-and-a-half-long road trip between Tom [James Marsden] and Sonic [voiced by Ben Schwartz] is highly enjoyable for its humour and its charming, friendly values. But it’s also a near-perfect nod, check-the-watch-and-tap-the-toe, Sonic translation. There are so many great references to the world of Sonic from the movie’s starting point being fictional Green Hills, Montana — a reference to the very first area in the first Sonic game. And then the destination being San Fransisco — which is a level you either love or hate from Sonic Adventure 2. There are musical and sound references and even a couple of post-credit scenes that do some serious setting up for an even larger Sonic film universe. My only real problem with the film is that at times it feels like it’s going to fast, and the story is forced to catch up. This mostly impacts the character of the kooky Dr. Robotnik [Jim Carrey], who steals every scene that he is in with a very clearly improvised bravado that perfectly captures the absurdity of Sonic’s longtime nemesis.

But the Digital version of Sonic The Hedgehog has really helped me get over the problems I originally had with the film. And it does it through the deleted scenes. Fowler opens these up by saying that making a movie is like a tough puzzle where sometimes the pieces don’t always fit together

 

There are four scenes here that all appear to me to have been cut due to timing constraints. However, if they could release the movie all over again,  I would have been happy to see the runtime extended to two hours or just over that to allow most of these scenes to be in the movie because they really help to expand upon it in a way that tightens the story.

There is one scene titled “Bae Nic,” which is a further expanded version of to opening scene and has Long Claw come to earth with Sonic that is not necessary. But the scenes “Original Opening” and “Super Observant Carl” pay proper penance to Carl, a character who really should have been given more than the couple of scenes he got. “Original Opening” shows the exciting game of cat and mouse between Carl and Sonic, which is relegated to a 20-second high-speed burp in the final film. I laughed at how weirdly specific it was that Carl is trying to catch Sonic using batteries and some bear traps. Apparently, Sonic was meant to drink batteries! That’s fun! Carl always felt like a stereotypical Bigfoot hunter, so to see him fall asleep on a Bigfoot puzzle and have Sonic complete it for him was hilarious.  I am also a huge fan of “Super Observant Carl” not only because it gives Carl more screentime to be the lovable kook sharing what is essentially and poorly-drawn Sonic meme, but also because the jovial respect shown towards Tom by all of the bar patrons shows a good example of how respected Tom is in Green Hills — something the final film enforces but does not dwell on. Spoiler alert, it made me feel like there really was a reason for Tom to stay in the end.

Finally, I really wish “Tom and Sonic Have a Chat” was included because the theme of the movie is using friendship to escape loneliness, something that is quite topical to where we currently find ourselves with physical distancing. This scene, which takes place at Rachels house in San Fransico, uncharacteristically slows Sonic down and bogs him down with the emotions that have been his source of unlimited power. The final film does a satisfactory job of conveying those emotions Sonic feels at his own speed, so this longer scene does feel a little too melancholy for the Blue Devil of Green Hills. However, where this scene really shines is in its dedication to showing the relationship that grows between Tom and Sonic of their two-day journey from Montana to California. The final film makes it abundantly clear that Sonic wants a best friend, spoiler alert, the last ten minutes of this film are filled with the realization of the friendship the two share. But it’s nice to see how things could have been slowed down in getting there.

There’s also a short documentary on the history of the Sonic brand, which is awesome if you are into the history of how games get made, and it features members of the cast and crew. If you are down to jam, there’s a cut of the music video for the film’s theme “Speed Me Up” by Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla $ign, Lil Yachty and Sueco The Child.

But the best part of the bonus features is a look at how Jim Carrey brought Dr. Robotnik to the big screen. Carrey was, by his admission, unaware of Sonic before he got the call for the film. He states that he knew Sonic was a video game, but that was the extent of his knowledge. He then discusses how he got to play the game with his grandson and became enthralled by the series. Seeing vintage Jim Carrey at work behind the scenes is a truly incredible look at how demanding bringing video game characters — or any characters — in particular, can be.

The full Sonic The Hedgehog experience is available now on iTunes and in the Cineplex Store.

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