Video games and movies don't often go hand in hand, history has taught us well. Indeed, some of the biggest embarrassments to blemish cinema have been influenced by even the best video game franchises, ranging from Super Mario Bros. to Street Fighter to Assassin's Creed. However, following a surprising amount of studio acknowledgement toward initial fan backlash, this year's Sonic the Hedgehog has thankfully evaded the same tragic fate; the end result is a film that can offer enjoyment to those even outside of the key demographic.
Our eponymous blue bur, voiced by Ben Schwartz, finds himself stranded on Earth after fleeing from those who seek to harness his supersonic powers back on his distant homeworld. Hiding away for many years, Sonic is eventually discovered by police officer Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), who reluctantly aids him on a quest to escape the clutches of sinister roboticist Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and hopefully find a new homeworld along the way.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a film that follows a typical buddy comedy formula; two key characters go on a lengthy adventure, their own friendship evolving as they learn countless new lessons and provide an array of hit or miss humour along the way. The common clichés and corny morals are visible from the get-go, but there's still a decent structure here to make for some consistent entertainment. Ben Schwartz delivers a charming and funny vocal performance as Sonic himself, whose personality is relatively faithful to the one we've come to know over the years. His colourful, cartoony appearance can inadvertently look awkward alongside the realistic world around him, but some impressive special effects still make it work in the long run. As almost everyone will say, the studio's revised design for our leading hero is miles superior to the hideous disgrace seen from early trailers.
The many human characters surrounding Sonic are likeable, but for the most part lack any real depth. James Marsden's performance as Tom is appealing, and while he's definitely the source of some great humour, his overall character arc is thin and predictable; of course, Jim Carrey as Robotnik is the character that will easily grab the attention of most audiences. Funny and suitably sinister, if still a bit bland, Robotnik is arguably one the film's most entertaining aspects, often surpassing Sonic himself. His integration into the story is somewhat forced and a tad bizarre, but the film's zany premise as a whole prevents this from becoming a major distraction. What we have here is a formulaic story that younger audiences and the most dedicated Sonic fans will embrace the most, but one that again has the potential to offer harmless and enjoyable family fun for those not amongst the franchises diehards.