In the 1990s, video game companies Nintendo and Sega were competing for dominance with the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. To try and compete with Nintendo's mascot Mario, Sega created Sonic the Hedgehog and introduced him in 1991. The first game's success led to a successful franchise that went through many ups and downs over the years. Plans for a film were brewing in the early 90s, but Sega was nervous given the failure of other adaptations. Then in 2013, Sony acquired the rights and was moving forward with a Sonic movie scheduled for release in 2018. However, Paramount ended up buying the rights in 2017, but they retained the same crew, including first-time director Jeff Fowler. Originally scheduled for release in November 2019, it was delayed due to the negative reception of the titular character's design. After an extensive redesign, Sonic the Hedgehog was released in February 2020.
For the past decade, Sonic the Hedgehog (Ben Schwartz) has been in hiding since escaping from his homeworld. Things change when he accidentally releases an electromagnetic pulse with his supersonic speed that catches the US government's attention. In response, they send the eccentric but brilliant Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to investigate and track down the creature. While trying to make his escape, Sonic catches the attention of the local sheriff, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden). The two end up running from Robotnik and his drones as they try to make their way to San Francisco. Turns out Sonic's rings, which can create portals, ended up getting lost on top of the Transamerica Pyramid. Along the way, the two become the unlikeliest of friends, and Sonic starts to consider staying on Earth. Will Robotnik catch up to our heroes, and will Sonic be able to save the day and his friends?
Before I get to the elephant in the room, I'll start by saying Sonic the Hedgehog is a fun time. First off, Sonic looks fantastic, and Ben Schwartz's performance is pitch-perfect, giving him the appropriate amount of cockiness and heart. James Marsden does a good job as the straight man, and his back and forths with Sonic are a highlight. Of course, Jim Carrey steals the show, giving an over-the-top performance similar to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective or The Mask. The rest of the human cast does a serviceable job, though none of them stand out that much. The action sequences are fun and exciting, though they use slow-motion sequences done better in X-Men: Days of Future Past. While many of the jokes don't land, there are still plenty of laughs here, as well as heartwarming moments. Also, while there's some Olive Garden product placement, it's not all that distracting.
When the first few trailers came out back in early 2019, many people were pretty critical of the film. I, myself, was also wary about its overall quality, especially the pretty horrifying original design of Sonic. Thankfully, the studio heard the complaints, admitted fault, and gave Sonic a complete do-over, which is a massive improvement. Sadly, the company behind the redesign, Motion Pictures Company Vancouver, ended up going bankrupt, which is a major sore spot. That being said, I hope these animators find jobs because the work they've done here is impressive given the circumstances. Had they gone with the original design, Sonic the Hedgehog would have been worse, but it wouldn't have changed much. While it is an enjoyable watch, there's not much substance and the plot is pretty predictable and unoriginal. Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog won't set the world on fire, but it's still worth a watch.