Sonic the Hedgehog once lived happily in a place called Sonic Island on some faraway planet. But he wasn’t your average little spikey-haired blue hedgehog (if there is such a thing). He had abilities and powers. Namely, he could run—fast! And all that speed generated a lot of excess energy.
It was the sort of super stuff that his mentor and protector, Longclaw Owl, instructed him to keep under wraps. But if you were a kid who could break the sound barrier every time you went out on a morning jog, would you play it safe and just lope along like any other barely moving cheetah or antelope?
Yeah, neither can young Sonic.
The only trouble is, with great power comes … a whole lot of unwanted attention. And before you can say Yikes!, a huge army of baddies is after our little blue speedster. So Longclaw does what she has to: she tosses out a magical gold ring to create a wormhole to a safe place and sent Sonic through, sacrificially staying behind to stop the screaming villians in his wake. (She also gives him a bag full of additional magic rings, in case Sonic ever needs to make another fast getaway.)
After plunging through that portal, Sonic finds himself on a little planet called Earth, in the little town of Green Hills, Montana. Longclaw obviously knew what she was doing, because Green Hills seems like the safest place in the universe. Sonic settles down in a cozy little cave in the woods outside town, a home where he’s unlikely to be discovered or disturbed. And speaking of those woods, they’re a great place for a super-fast hedgehog to zip around unseen to his heart’s content.
Sonic also discovers these friendly creatures called humans. The lil’ blue guy is positively fascinated by them, secretly watching and admiring them as they eat things called donuts and watch things called movies.
Truth is, however, Sonic is, well, a little lonely. He wants to eat donuts, and watch movies with the humans. He longs to play a game called baseball. I mean, hey, he’s fast enough to play every position on the whole team … at the same time. But Sonic isn’t sure how the human world would react to someone like him.
Of course, then there’s that “with great power comes great attention” thing, which Sonic keeps forgetting about. After one indulgent super-speed burst, Sonic unwittingly unleashes an energy blast that knocks out the lights in all of Green Hills. In fact, it knocks out all of the power in the Pacific Northwest.
Once again, before you can say Yikes!, Sonic attracts the attention of the U.S. government and a brilliant-but-dastardly scientist by the name of Dr. Robotnik.
Robotnik is a human who’s not satisfied with donuts and movies and a fun Saturday afternoon game of baseball. Robotnik wants … everything! And a super-charged alien hedgehog is now squarely in his power-hungry sights.
Sonic is a good guy with a naturally rambunctious spirit. He’ll readily stop what he’s doing to help someone in need—he even rescues a slow-moving turtle from being hit by a car (and then takes the relaxed reptile on a hyper-speed run, just for fun).
But more importantly, this hot-wheels hedgehog is quick to appreciate the small joys of life. He understands the value of friendship, sacrificing for others and living in a safe place filled with good people. Even though he loves Green Hills, he’s willing to teleport away to someplace much more unpleasant if doing so protects those he’s come to care about.
Speaking of those folks, Sonic meets a local police officer named Tom. He has set his sights on getting away from small-town life and taking a police job in San Francisco. Tom believes that’s the only way to prove himself under real pressure and to help his fellow man. But Sonic points out that the people of Green Hills need Tom, too. “What could possibly be more important than protecting the people who you care about?” Sonic asks him.
Tom eventually realizes, along with his loving wife, Maddy, that a life of service in and around good people is exactly the kind of life and home that they need. And they also both agree that Sonic—a space alien creature just looking for a friend and a home—is not only a good friend, but someone they welcome as part of their family (which could be seen as a light, pro-adoption message).
Longclaw’s little golden rings (a valuable commodity that the game version of Sonic always snatched up) turn out to be magical assets in this movie version of Sonic’s story. When tossed into the air, they expand into a short-lived portal that can transport someone anywhere, from distant lands to distant planets. Longclaw not only uses one to teleport Sonic to safety, she gives him a small bag of the rings for future use.
Maddy’s exasperated sister exclaims, “Little baby Lord Jesus!” at one point. She also cries out, “Oh thank God!” when something good happens.
Maddy wears spaghetti-strap tops on occasion (though nothing too revealing). Dr. Robotnik tosses out snarky quips on a regular basis, including saying “I see you’ve taken a lover” when he spots Tom with his wife, Maddy.
Maddy’s sister is quite cynical about marriage. She thinks Tom’s not worthy of Maddy and repeatedly tries to convince Maddy to leave him (in scenes mostly played for humor).
An early scene in the film might potentially be the most unsettling for the youngest viewers. In it, Longclaw Owl gets hit by an attacker’s arrow (there’s no blood), and it’s implied that she gives her life to ensure that Sonic escapes.
From running battles with Dr. Robotnik’s many drones, autonomous vehicles and heat-seeking missiles; to leaping and battling on skyscrapers; to an out and out super-speed boss battle in Green Hills town square, this pic takes numerous opportunities to lend its live-action, thump-and-bash realism to Sonic’s video game roots. That makes for lots of explosions and super-speed bopping. Along the way, vehicles get cut up and crumpled up by lasers and crashes, with a couple of people falling off a tall building. But none of that destruction is too visceral. (When several cars get demolished in a chase, for example, the movie doesn’t want us to spend too much time thinking about who might have been in them.)
In fact, Dr. Robotnik’s snarling, fist-shaking pursuit of his little blue quarry (and Sonic’s friends) tends to feel more potentially harmful than the blasting attacks themselves. Robotnik vows to catch Sonic and neutralize him, for example. And if Sonic resists, Robotnik ominously promises to take him apart “piece by piece.” But even in these momentarily intense scenes, the film plays Robotnik’s threats and villainy more as a melodramatic joke than anything.
During their travels, Tom and Sonic go into a bar and end up inadvertently initiating a raucous bar brawl. But Sonic defuses the thrown punches and broken bottles with hyper-speed and a bunch of pranks. As the world around him is reduced to slow motion, Sonic wraps up the brawlers in ropy bonds and yanks on some underwear, too. We see one guy lose a tooth (in slow motion) after receiving a punch. Others careen about, smashing tables and chairs over each other.
[Spoiler Warning] There is one point in the film when Sonic falls to the ground after a large battle, and it appears that he may have succumbed to a blast. But, hey, this is Sonic the Hedgehog. He doesn’t stay down for long.
We hear one use each of “h—” and “h—a,” as well as several uses of “oh my god” and “oh my gosh.” Someone calls out the French profanity “sacré bleu.” Other outbursts include “What the heck?” and an unfinished “son of a … ” We also hear “suckers,” “geez” and a reference or two to someone’s backside.
Dr. Robotnik snarkily comments about small-town residents needing to “head off to get drunk and put the boat in the water.” Tom and Sonic go into a roadside bar filled with patrons (mostly bikers) who are drinking beer in a lengthy scene that eventually descends into roadhouse chaos.
We hear a few crude giggles and gags throughout the movie’s script. These include jokes about being probed by aliens, being breastfed as a child, giving someone a high-speed wedgy, gas jokes, etc.
Maddy’s sister isn’t onboard with helping Sonic. So her own family (including, perhaps, her children) ties her to a chair to restrain her long enough to solve Sonic’s dilemma.
For many young kids, the superfast blue hedgehog Sonic and his archnemesis, Dr. Robotnik, are likely as inscrutable as every other Sega game character from the late ’90s: as unrecognizable as, say, the word inscrutable. But even if they don’t know Sonic from his platforming, super-speed, jump-and-spin gaming days or yore, they’ll likely still enjoy his new high-energy, live-action movie.
This big-screen take on Sega’s anthropomorphized cobalt cannonballer is mostly cute and cuddly. Sonic’s story is quick, involving, and packed with nice lessons about caring for the ones you love and being grateful for the blessings you have. And Dr. Robotnik—played with melodramatic, Ace Ventura-like panache by Jim Carrey—sports as much zany zeal as mellifluous menace as he squints out from behind his heavily-waxed mustache.
Granted, throwback Jim Carrey-isms can sometimes open the door to some slightly edgier moments. Parents, you’ll have to decide how many “OMGs,” “What the hecks,” winking giggles and “pickled farts” you’ll want your youngsters to endure. As for the film’s more intense moments, that early scene with Longclaw Owl taking an arrow is probably the only one with the potential to upset particularly sensitive viewers.
That said, these moments never feel as if they cross any truly uncomfortable lines or stray too far from the expected PG-rated, kid-pic loop de loops. And hey, for older game fans, there’s even gold-ring gathering and a big boss battle to boot. Woohoo.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.