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"SONIC THE HEDGEHOG"
(2020) (James Marsden, Jim Carrey) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi/Action/Comedy: The sheriff of a small town ends up protecting and befriending an anthropomorphic, alien hedgehog from a ruthless, high-tech government hired gun who wants to get his hands on the creature.
PLOT:

Sonic the Hedgehog (voice of BEN SCHWARTZ) is an anthropomorphic, alien hedgehog sent to Earth a decade ago by his mentor to keep him safe. Incredibly fast and possessing a number of portal rings that can get him out of harm's way by creating escape routes to other worlds if needed, he's followed his mentor's advice about remaining hidden from sight. And he's managed to do that in the small town of Green Hills, Montana where he's only partially been spotted by one resident who everyone else thinks is a crazy old man.

With no friends, Sonic has taken to observing the life of Green Hills' sheriff, Tom Wachowski (JAMES MARSDEN), and that man's wife, veterinarian Maddie (TIKA SUMPTER). While they have many friends in the town, they're planning to move to San Francisco so that Tom can become a member of a bigger police department. But that all changes when in a moment of self-pity, Sonic runs so fast that an electrical discharge knocks out power for miles and even affects a satellite in space.

All of which draws the interest of Pentagon brass who realize they have no other choice than to call in high-tech wizard Dr. Ivo Robotnik (JIM CARREY) to figure out who or what is responsible. With Sonic taking refuge in Tom's house, the sheriff suddenly finds himself at odds with the misanthropic Robotnik who favors machines over humans and is determined to get his hands on the speedy little hedgehog.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

I've said it before and I'll say it again, movies can and should be viewed as standalone entities apart from whatever source material that might be based on. For starters, that's because film is a different sort of storytelling medium than novels, comic books, video games and even the visual cousin, TV shows, which have a lot more time to develop characters than your typical film.

And then there's the fact that not everyone who sees such a movie has also experienced the original material, meaning getting too deep into the detailed weeds and focusing on the trees rather than the forest could alienate newcomers. Yes, offering up fan-favorite elements can be the icing on the cake, but shouldn't dominate the proceedings.

Case in point is the live-action meets CGI-based title character movie, "Sonic the Hedgehog." Having grown up in the era of Pong, Asteroids, Space Invaders and such, I was already pretty much done with video games by the time the speedy little blue mammal showed up for the Sega Genesis game console in 1991. Since then, Sonic has become a mega-popular moneymaker for Sega and attempts to make a movie based on him have been going on for decades.

With everything set for a release last year, the most recent setback was the design of the title character that apparently freaked out the fan base and thus forced Paramount to go back and do some retooling to make him easier on the eye for those vocal fans as well as younger kids.

With that out of the way, the result is a fairly entertaining and generally pleasing offering that, coincidentally or not, also returns actor Jim Carrey to his old over-the-top acting shenanigans that made him a star back in those early Sega era days. Here, he plays Dr. Robotnik, Sonic's arch-enemy who's reluctantly called into play by Pentagon brass to determine what's caused a massive power outage across Montana and surrounding environs.

Unbeknownst to them or him, that was the result of a lonely and frustrated Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) lapping the bases of a ball field in the small town of Green Hills where he's been hiding out for the past decade. A brief prologue before that (which follows an obligatory action scene that's returned to later in the film) introduces him as an ultra-speedy little hedgehog who's sent via a ring-based portal to Earth by his sensei/mentor to protect him from those wishing to do him harm.

He's since observed the humans in the small town and particularly latched onto a couple -- but only voyeuristically -- who he views as his family. They're Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter), the local sheriff and vet who are planning to move to San Francisco soon. Before that can happen, however, Sonic races around the bases, the power goes out, and Carrey's literal villainous mustache-twirling, high-tech government agent character shows up intent on discovering the cause and then capturing or wiping it out.

What follows from director Jeff Fowler and co-writers Patrick Casey & Josh Miller is pretty much a mismatched buddy movie meets road trip flick meets any film like "E.T." In other words, there really isn't anything here that we haven't seen before in one form or another. There's also the obligatory crude humor designed for kids and their particular sense of humor, as well as some "he speeds around so fast that time seems to stand still for everyone else" moments that would have been pretty cool (in terms of setting up things to best various adversaries in the blink of an eye once speed returns to normal) had such material not already occurred with the Quicksilver character in some previous "X-Men" movies.

All of that said, the offering is nonetheless charming and enjoyable enough to entertain kids and most adults alike. And that's particularly true if you miss the early years of Carrey's stardom and his zany, over the top mannerisms as he returns to form here without missing a beat. While mileage may vary for diehard fans and especially those who freaked out over the early CGI incarnation of the title character, I found most everything amusing and fun enough for "Sonic the Hedgehog" to rate as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed February 8, 2020 / Posted February 14, 2020


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