Sonic the Hedgehog (Review & Commentary)
Transcribed directly from an audio recording
Sonic, where art thou? I watched Sonic the Hedgehog a couple of weeks ago and wanted to provide a quick review of the film. I’ll keep it short. Long story short, it’s a good looking film with some great design. I’m glad that the filmmakers decided to push on the breaks to resolved the CGI backlash the first trailer received. I’m glad that they had the fortitude to actually listen to the audience and to delay the release of the film by a few months to resolve the design concerns surrounding the character of Sonic. This ultimately was a great decision, but unfortunately, it didn’t lead to a better film in any way. Bottom line, this film is frankly quite boring. It had the clout and context to be a great film but it misses the mark on a few levels. I’m a huge fan of Jim Carrey, I always have been. I love him in comedy and I also love his standup and more serious dramatic work as well. The issue I have with Jim Carrey in this film is the simple fact that he seems to be playing a caricature of several of his previous beloved characters. His performance is fine and he’s probably the perfect casting choice but it simply doesn’t feel fresh, funky, or something different. Some have said that his performance in this film is like his typical work in Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura, and so on, but I would respectfully disagree. In this film, he seems to be purposely “playing” a character rather than being one. When you see Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura, you see Ace Ventura not Jim Carrey. It does not feel in any way that you are seeing a character being played. You are fully invested in the fact that characters like Ace Ventura, Lloyd Christmas and others are real. In Sonic the Hedgehog, Jim Carrey’s performance seems forced and almost like he’s trying to harness similar characteristics or qualities of past characters and it falls flat. It’s mostly unconvincing. Perhaps, I’m now used to the Jim Carrey we see today. The more serious painter and performer. Either way, the performance here seems off, even if he is perfectly cast in the role. Everyone else provides a passable performance. In my opinion, no performance really shines or sticks out compared to any other performance in the film. Generally speaking, everyone is passable in their roles. The chemistry between the two leads isn’t great, and again, it feels quite contrived. The inherent issue with this film is one aspect which is that the film feels like it was made specifically for children five years old or younger. There is absolutely no adult humour, double entendres, innuendos or any subject matter that is adult in nature. There is absolutely nothing provocative and not a single curse is uttered at any time. It is, beyond a doubt, a family film through and through. THIS ISN’T MY POINT OF CONTENTION. What is my point of contention is the fact that the subject matter of this film is based on a popular video game from the early nineties. As most of you know, the character of Sonic was created in 1991. This means that the demographic that liked and enjoyed this franchise previously are now all in their thirties, forties and fifties. Young children are not going to be aware of who these characters are in any way. They will have a ridiculously fun time watching this film given that it is tailored specifically for them but I think there was a huge opportunity to make a film featuring Sonic that would appeal to both adults and children. A film that was rooted in a family romp with enough adult innuendo or references to keep the adults satisfied. The core demographic of this film are now in their adulthood and there could have been a way to ensure that both sides of the coin were satisfied. Many family-friendly films do a tremendous job of appealing to both adults and children. A prime example of this is Shark Tale. There is a line in the film spoken by the character played by Robert De Niro in which his character says something akin to “you turned my kid into a dolphin!”. Children love this film but adults appreciate the innuendoes and references. Another example would be the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film that was released in 1990. It is a film made for a family audience but it has a serious and dark tone. It takes itself seriously, even though it’s four anthropomorphic ninja turtles beating up guys in pyjamas. It works well for adults and children. There are plenty of examples of children’s films that have adult humour laced throughout the script. You can check out many examples online of children’s films with adult humour that find a perfect balance between satisfying children and adults.
Is the film beautiful? Absolutely. The design choices and filmmaking are in top form here. Will your family have fun watching this film? Almost positively. Will adults or childhood fans of Sonic appreciate this film? Most likely not. There was an opportunity here to make something fun for new Sonic audiences as well as the audience that came to adore this character over the past thirty years. The inherent issue of making a film based on Sonic solely designed for children is the fact that children are not going to be aware of who any of these characters are. The filmmakers needed to consider their core demographic much more. Spoilers: There is a post-credit scene featuring Dr. Robotnik changing his appearance to be more reminiscent of the video games as well as the introduction of Tails and again this is an awesome set up for a Sonic sequel, however, this film was not written for fans that grew up in the nineties. I will say this, I am abundantly proud of the filmmakers in their decision to push back the release for a couple of months to correct the negative reception of the original Sonic design. I respect them for actually listening to the audience and the design this time around is much better.