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Sonic the Hedgehog film review: You can slow your roll, Sega fans

Enlarge / High-speed blur effect? Check. Golden ring? Check. Oversized eyes? Check (thank goodness). But what about the rest of the first live-action Sonic the Hedgehog film?Sega / Paramount

At least seven times during my screening of Sonic the Hedgehog, the first live-action film based on the classic Sega gaming franchise, I blurted to myself: "I can't believe they nearly kept the old design."

The nicest thing I can say about this week's new movie is that Sega and Paramount dodged a monumental disaster. This film's camera is in love with Sonic, the sole CGI-ified star. It constantly stares him down, lingers on his cartoon-bulging eyes, and allows the animation crew to sell his emotional state. Not that Sonic is a subtle character; actor Ben Schwarz (Parks & Recreation, the voice of Star Wars' BB-8) plays the titular role like a caffeinated 12-year-old, and it's fitting. But the film's heartwarming moments always include deep looks into Sonic's eyes. That could've been very, very different.

Now, audience members can rest assured that this serviceable, acceptable, not-amazing-but-not-terrible family film wasn't tanked by toothy, limber, squinty-eyed Sonic. With that crucial detail out of the way, the rest of the attached film isn't as sensational or headline-worthy. The series' first live-action film is neither a jolt to the pantheon of Sonic media nor a must-see video game adaptation. We've landed somewhere above The Angry Birds Movie, somewhere below Pokemon: Detective Pikachu.

A madman trapped in his own universe, not Segas

  • Jim Carrey hasn't been this fun in a starring role in some time. (I won't stop you from counting 2014's Dumb and Dumber To, but, c'mon, let's be real. Sega / Paramount
  • What does a strand of Sonic fur taste like? Spicy, apparently. Sega / Paramount
  • Robotnik and Tom meet, before Robotnik eventually dons his familiar outfit from the game series. Sega / Paramount
  • Shortly before meeting Sonic, Tom and his wife (played by Tika Sumpter) begin making big plans. Sega / Paramount
  • "300? Is this some metric-system nonsense?" Sega / Paramount
  • "Hey, let's fake like that fast food company whose commercials star two guys cracking wise in their car. What's it called? Hmm, it's on the tip of my tongue…" Sega / Paramount
  • I would have preferred a Sonic Fighters reference at this moment. Alas. Sega / Paramount
  • Also, he never glides around on golden rings in the games, though that would be a sweet option. Sega / Paramount
  • At its best, the VFX team pulls off gags like this just-dried furball moment. Sega / Paramount
  • But the general lack of believable ambient occlusion becomes noticeable throughout the film. Sega / Paramount
  • I can't even imagine this scene with the original character design. Sega / Paramount

I land on an overall positive verdict mostly thanks to Jim Carrey's whirlwind comedic performance as series villain Dr. Robotnik. His script has zero apparent ties to series lore (which, to be fair, is mostly two-dimensional cheese found in cartoon and comic-book adaptations). Instead, the writing and directing crew appear to have given Carrey full rein to play up the "egocentric, genius megalomaniac" archetype however he saw fit. Based on how far his character flies off the rails, with speeches perfectly synced to Carrey's physicality and timing, I get the impression the actor ad-libbed what we get on-screen. Yet even if I'm incorrect, his rhythms and intensity fall into an incredible groove, as if he were teaching a masterclass on '60s B-movie villainy.

To that end, neither Carrey nor anyone else here has an allegiance to a "Sonic-worthy" plot or references. When Carrey is hilarious, he's acting like a madman trapped in his own universe, not Sega's. And when Sonic is dashing around or fighting robots, the results rarely look like the action in the blue hedgehog's classic games. He has maybe two "spin dash" moves throughout the film's 90 minutes, and he rarely bounces on top of bad guys to destroy them. Not that it matters that much for the sake of the film, but I point it out for those viewers who might be dismayed that Robotnik doesn't abide by series lore and trap woodland creatures inside of his robots.

Strangely, the filmmakers can't get past a different superhero's archetype: the Flash. Everything Sonic does in this film revolves around his ability to run fast, which they take to mean he has a mastery of time and space—that he can perceive the world around him in slow motion, or that he can run insane distances almost instantly. Most of Sonic's visual gags in the film revolve around this concept, and a stack of licensed DC Comics books in one scene reads less like an homage and more like an open admission of a dry creative well.

Sure, he can slow time down, mess with nearby people while time's frozen, and then call "time in!" to watch the sparks fly. It's cute. I chuckled. But it's not a very inventive twist on the ancient bullet-time concept. Why not make Sonic abide by the game serieRead More – Source

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