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(For Day 9 of NaPoWriMo, the prompt was to write a to-do list for an unusual character, so I wrote one for Sonic himself as he hides away in a small town at the start of this movie.)

Let me review
My daily to-do:
I’ll watch the sun rising at 7:02.
I’ll scarf down some breakfast by 7:03,
Then on to a new day of being 3D.
I’ll challenge myself to ping pong yet again;
I do always win, but I’m bored by point ten.
I’ll watch the town sheriff eat donuts and sit
And wait for a car driving past the limit.
I’ll watch as the Little League team has a game
And hide in the shadows to cheer every name.
I’ll watch the town crazy go still unbelieved
As he tells of the spiky blue beast he’s perceived.
I’ll watch the schoolchildren, the farmers and vets,
All living their lives with no sign of regrets.
I wish I could join them and just coexist.
Perhaps I’ll add that to tomorrow’s new list.

MPA rating:  PG

I don’t know that anyone really expected Sonic the Hedgehog to be good. Not only are video game movies rarely successful, but backlash against Sonic’s initial appearance in the first released trailer prompted a swift redesign and a three-month delay, which is rarely a good sign. Those low expectations only make the finished product an even more pleasant surprise. Sonic the Hedgehog is better, funnier, and far more likable than it has any right to be.

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I played and enjoyed one Sonic Game Boy game back in my golden tween years, but I’d never say that I was as invested in the Sega franchise as, say, the fans who expressed such strong opinions about that creepy version of the character from the first trailer. Yet this film does a marvelous job at fitting in plentiful fan service that never detracts from telling an entertaining story accessible to non-fans as well. Sonic himself is something of a refugee from another dimension/planet, possessing super speedy power for which he must keep himself secret. Thus, he hides out in a small town in Montana, forming a one-sided relationship with local sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and his wife (Tika Sumpter), but the fun-loving hedgehog eventually draws the attention of the government and mad scientist Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and must rely on Tom for help.

I’ll freely agree that Sonic’s more cartoonish design is far better than the realistic one that fed people’s nightmares, but, as top-notch as the animation is, that still seems secondary to Ben Schwartz’s outstanding vocal performance of the character, which sometimes seems like he’s trying to emulate Robin Williams as the Genie. Likewise, James Marsden’s talent for acting opposite CGI animals has apparently become a calling card of his, and he serves as a straight man to Sonic’s antics as they embark on a road trip to get the alien to safety. And then there’s Jim Carrey, who hams it up as Sonic’s iconic robot-loving nemesis. Honestly, Robotnik is amusing, but anyone else would have been just too campy; Carrey fits the insane character into the over-the-top schtick that made him a star in the ‘90s, and he really is a hoot chewing the scenery, such as during a dance sequence to The Poppy Family’s 1971 song “Where Evil Grows.”

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Sonic the Hedgehog doesn’t always seem very original, such as during super-speed sequences directly recalling Quicksilver’s best moments in the X-Men prequels, yet it has an overall likability and a great sense of self-aware humor. Moments that seem hackneyed don’t always play out as expected, and the product placement is so blatant that they actually work it into the film’s jokes. It subverts the expectations for a corporate cash-grab and works just as well as a family-friendly adventure extolling friendship as it does a potential starter for a cinematic universe. Plus, it had the advantage of coming out right before the COVID pandemic hit, making it the sixth highest-grossing film of 2020 and the most successful video game film yet. Based on the numbers alone, I’d say there’s a market for films like this that can please fans and non-fans alike.

Best line: (Sonic, hidden inside a duffel bag) “How much longer? I can’t breathe in here!”
(a bystander) “Do you have your child in that bag?”
(Tom, nonchalantly) “No…. I mean, yes, it’s a child, but it’s not mine.”

Rank:  List Runner-Up

© 2021 S.G. Liput
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