MOVIE REVIEW: Sonic the Hedgehog

Rating: PG / Runtime: 1 hour and 39 minutes

Let me just get this out of the way up front. I can confirm that Sonic does indeed go fast! Very fast, in fact. Almost as fast as the studio lept into action and changed the CGI animation of their titular character after extreme internet backlash following the original trailer’s release. That choice was a wise one, removing the creepily human similarities that made the character look very different than its video game origins. The newer design of Sonic is much more approachable, relatable, and adorable, and it likely salvaged Paramount’s chance at having the Sega game adaptation become a success. 

It’s no secret that films based on video games have been more miss than hit, and there are a number of understandable reasons why this is the case. Low budgets at times, a lack of talent or star power, or misunderstanding the market desire for a film version of a game to name a few. The list goes on. But one very real challenge that many adaptations face was something that “Sonic the Hedgehog” can actually count as a strength. The video game style of Sonic, you see, is not extremely narrative-driven, and thus the character is much more of an open slate with which to explore a new storytelling medium. Most casual audience members will simply go into the film knowing that Sonic is a cute furry blue hedgehog-like creature that runs super-fast and collects rings. The film smartly wastes no time in quickly getting most of its lore dump out of the way, showing us see where Sonic came from, explaining to us the power of these iconic collectible rings, and introducing Sonic’s nemesis. 

With the background in our rearview, “Sonic the Hedgehog” can get down to the business of crafting an adventure for the blue devil in the modern world. Sonic (Ben Schwartz) lives a lonely existence. He inhabits a small cave in the forest outside of small-town Green Hills, MT and enjoys watching Tom and Maddie Wachowski (James Marsden and Tika Sumpter) from afar, but he constantly dreams of a world in which he is not alone and can interact with the local humans. Eventually, that happens. After an emotional outburst sets off a special power Sonic was unaware that he has, the government comes calling, sending in their egotistical genius scientist Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and his legion of drones to capture and study what they believe in an alien specimen of great value. The majority of the movie is made up of Sonic and Tom on a quest to keep him safe, having hilarious and exciting encounters while developing a growing friendship that neither quite knows how to handle. All the while they are chased by the evil, mustache-twirling Robotnik. It’s a performance by Carrey that calls back to his comedic brilliance of the past with him commanding the screen and delivering deliciously ridiculous dialogue in the perfect tone of a video game villain. While Marsden definitely does solid work, even with some slight emotional nuance, and Sonic is competent though unspectacularly voiced by Schwartz, this is Carrey’s movie through and through. True to his name, he carries the film and keeps it enjoyable throughout.

Action pieces in the film are a mixed bag. Some are exciting and others exist only to generate hearty laughs and play with Sonic’s speed in interesting ways, like a slow-motion bar fight that is reminiscent of Quicksilver’s memorable moment in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” or comparable sequences in any number of iterations of The Flash. You probably won’t remember the specifics of any action a day or two later, but it’s never boring and the kids are going to love it. What is more surprising is how emotionally resonant the heart of the film is. Despite some really on-the-nose references to family, Sonic clearly desires one and we want that for him. By the end, you may even find yourself tearing up a bit at some of the sweet character interactions that occur. 

Film adaptations of video games have been so bad for so long that the low bar has reached a point that isn’t honestly that hard to clear. “Sonic the Hedgehog” is certainly nothing special, but it’s a perfectly fun new version of the character to spend an hour and a half with that both scratches the nostalgia itch with its frequent references to the source material and is modern enough to keep younger audience members engaged at the same time. The end of the film teases a sequel and maybe the biggest endorsement of this film I can give is that I truly hope it happens.

** There are two scenes at the end of the film, one of which is mid-credits that you don’t want to miss! **


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: April 28-May 4


LESSON #1: SATISFACTION IS BEAUTIFUL WHEN YOU GET IT— It’s been a week and we can certainly talk about Avengers: Endgame details.  As many of the over-300 comments in our Facebook group page reaction thread will tell you, the movie delivered on its Infinity War setup, surprises of secrecy, and hype of finale performance.  Reviews big and small are overwhelmingly stellar. It’s a great feeling when a series can stick its landing.  There’s both catharsis and satisfaction to be had where a viewer will always celebrate and connect to the giving film in question.  Folks, what we have here is a rare instant classic, a movie we will be talking about and remembering for a long time from Day 1. Behind the scenes, these endearing stars, especially Robert Downey, Jr., are getting P-A-I-D.

LESSON #2: PLOT HOLES ARE PROBLEMATIC IN MULTIPLE WAYS— Some of the minority points of dissatisfaction towards Avengers: Endgame (including those from this critic) have typically cited the broad term of “plot holes.” For me, once you dive into time travel, plot holes become nearly automatic.  The question becomes at what point do plot holes matter? Which ones are worth citing and which ones are petty to complain about? Nearly a year ago, friend-of-the-page YouTuber Patrick Willems did an outstanding video testimony on plot holes and I think it’s a fitting rewatch for Avengers: Endgame.  His light side of “worry about the things that matter” is balanced by the overarching notion of “mainstreamed nerd culture” and the need to get “back to quality criticism.”

LESSON #3: PLOT HOLES BE DAMNED, ANSWERS ARE AVAILABLE— With the Endgame secrecy lifted in most places (Disney itself opens things up on Monday), the movie’s directors and screenwriters have been responding to theories and questions all over the place in exclusive sit-downs on the post-premiere press tour.   Fandango chatted with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.  So did The New York Times.  The directing Russos talked at length in China and in Entertainment Weekly.  For me, hearing directly from the sources like this beats clickbait fan theories any day.

LESSON #4: LET’S ADD SOME NEW FAN THEORIES ANYWAY— Between the scope, importance, and even the plot holes of Avengers: Endgame, there’s room for the internet masses to apply their own guess work and prognostication.  Take the time travel as one place and hidden Easter eggs as another.  There’s even some guessing going on for who the next villain will be and when we’ll see the X-Men, despite no springboarding post-credits scenes or direct clues.  Maybe some of the big dangling ideas of Avengers: Endgame can join this Collider all-time list of some of the best and most famous fan theories.

LESSON #5: KEEP AN EYE ON UNIVERSAL PICTURES— With all the success and eyes on everything Disney, there are other power plays being made out there.  Long-time Sony producer Amy Pascal is leaving Sony for Universal Pictures.  The woman who steered the old Raimi Spider-Man boom, reignited James Bond under a new studio, survived The Interview fiasco with grace, and brought a range of successes spanning The Social Network and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is quite a get for Universal.  Sony now has a big hole to fill.  

LESSON #6: WHEN FANS MAKE ENOUGH NOISE ACTION CAN SOMETIMES HAPPEN— This week, new Sonic the Hedgehog movie coming in November debuted its first full trailer and look at the titular video game speedster.  The reactions were overwhelmingly negative. When that happens for a live-action movie, reshoots can sometimes be possible or fresh tries at editing a few tonal changes.  That’s not as simple for an animated film where that end of creative work takes years to render. Amazingly, the film’s director Jeff Fowler heard the complaints and vowed to redesign the character in time for November.  I call that ballsy and brave to say out loud.  You don’t see Disney doing that publicly after the Aladdin jeers.  Let’s see how it turns out.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#100)