Jeff Fowler (director)
1h 39mins (length)
13 February 2020 (released)
16 February 2020
Films of computer games do not have a great history, with an early effort, 1993's Super Mario Bros. a notorious disaster that has generally been followed by soulless cash-ins or empty star vehicles.
Now, Mario's great 1990s rival, SEGA's Sonic the Hedgehog, has finally made it to the big screen with his own film - to predictably underwhelming results.
Debut director Jeff Fowler's movie has already garnered unwanted headlines, with a bizarre early CGI iteration of Sonic drawing mockery due to its uncanny human-like teeth and lack of resemblance to the cuddly hero.
These problems, one is pleased to report, are largely fixed. Sonic (voiced by Parks and Recreation star Ben Schwartz) is back to the blue cartoon hero we know and love from the game's colourful levels rather than the kind of hideous scientific experiment that would make Jeff Goldblum cower in horror. However, everything else is pretty misjudged.
In the film's opening scenes, we catch a glimpse of a world featuring the exotic bridges and loop-de-loops 1990s kids used to love making the super-fast Sonic whizz around, but dark forces quickly result in Sonic's mentor, the owl Longclaw, sending him to Earth, and specifically, the small town of Green Hills, Montana - where he observes humanity but cannot interact with its residents.
These include Green Hills' kindly doughnut-loving Sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), and his vet wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Lonely due to his isolation, Sonic lets off an electric charge while amusing himself on the baseball field that attracts the government and their contractor, the evil scientific genius Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
Sonic and Tom are thrust together, and due to a mishap involving a stun gun and Sonic's magic rings, they must head to San Francisco to retrieve them while being pursued by the increasingly deranged Robotnik and his army of drones.
There is little more to the plot, which is really just a vehicle to provide our CGI Sonic with something to do and for Carrey to return to the gurning comedy antics that made him a huge movie star at the same time Sonic was a presence in kids' bedrooms.
The funnyman, who returns after a long absence from cinemas, is actually the best thing about Sonic the Hedgehog, portraying Robotnik as a character so absurd it will draw a few laughs from the movie's young target audience - with one dancing scene close to vintage Carrey.
That's not saying much, however, as everything else is so forgettable. From Sonic's annoying teenager persona, to the backdrops, as with the exception of an alarmingly misconceived barfight, most seem to take place in washed-out suburbia or on the hard shoulder of highways.
It's a shame because, in the game, Sonic is the kind of vibrant character existing in a colourful world that could make for a great kids' movie. But somewhere, its charms appear to have been chucked in the bin in favour of a Detective Pikachu-style mix of computer game fantasy and reality.
What made that a rare digital cinematic success though, was the creation of a genuinely complex immersive world in which its characters lived. Here, Sonic is just plonked into a part of middle-America that even its characters admit is so dull they are desperate to leave.
What sums it all up, is the fact that the credits, which contain an 8-bit illustration of the movie and last minutes, are far more engaging than the actual film itself.