Game-to-movie adaptation Sonic The Hedgehog offers 'rambunctious fun'
A blue hedgehog from another dimension battles Jim Carrey's evil scientist Dr Robotnik in Sonic The Hedgehog. Damon Smith reviews
IN THE early 1990s, I bade farewell to my teenage years with the controller of a Sega Mega Drive video game console nestled in my hands, guiding a lightning-quick blue hedgehog around loop-the-loop obstacle courses in search of glittering gold coins.
Sonic The Hedgehog was my sweet addiction through university and temporarily drove a wedge between me and Nintendo's trusty plumber Mario.
A heady whiff of nostalgia permeates director Jeff Fowler's origin story, which boldly realises the anthropomorphic spiny mammal in a real-world setting using digital trickery and a jocular vocal performance from Ben Schwartz.
Unlike so many beloved video game-to-lamentable film adaptations – Double Dragon, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Kylie Minogue – this is rambunctious fun.
Admittedly, Pat Casey and Josh Miller's script is guilty of cloying sentimentality and struggles to articulate the title character's loneliness.
However, when Fowler's picture concentrates on fish-out-of-water comedy, father-son bonding and the campy delights of archvillain Dr Ivo Robotnik, the pleasures outweigh the pain.
Sonic (Schwartz) is raised by owl protector Longclaw (Donna Jay Fulks), who the hedgehog pithily describes as "basically Obi-Wan Kenobi... if Obi-Wan Kenobi had a beak and ate mice".
The electric blue hero comes under attack and escapes through a spinning portal to the leafy glades of Green Hills in Montana, where the Wachowski family has protected locals for more than 50 years.
Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) is a town cop, who hungers for bigger challenges than speed-trapping a tortoise on the highway.
He is eyeing a move to San Francisco with veterinarian wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter).
Their plans are put on hold when Sonic breaks into the couple's home to escape military consultant Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
"I was spitting out formulas while you were spitting out (baby) formula," hisses the evil genius, shadowed by slippery sidekick Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub).
Tom agrees to accompany the fugitive furball on a hare-brained odyssey to open a portal to a fungi-festooned planet, where Sonic will be safe from Robotnik and his weaponised drones.
Sonic The Hedgehog is a pleasing diversion that harks back to the video games and delivers turbo-charged action sequences that slow down time to a crawl a la Quicksilver in the X-Men series.
Schwartz invests the title character with wise-cracking attitude as a comic foil for Marsden's beleaguered sheriff.
As the film's hi-tech antagonist, Carrey is a scene-stealing delight, returning to the rubber-faced theatrics of his Ace Ventura and Mask heyday.
Fowler conceals two scenes in the end credits to bait a sequel: the first vignette completes Carrey's metamorphosis into the outrageously moustachioed archvillain from the video games while the second morsel heralds a familiar airborne ally for Sonic.
Game over, but certainly not out.
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (PG, 99 mins) Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Comedy/Romance. James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Lee Majdoub and the voices of Ben Schwartz, Donna Jay Fulks. Director: Jeff Fowler.
Released: February 14