Ben Schwartz voices Sonic in Paramount Pictures’ “Sonic the Hedgehog.”
“Sonic the Hedgehog’s” Rotten Tomato score suggests that Hollywood may have finally cracked the code on how to successfully take a video game character onto the big screen, but a closer inspection of critic reviews tells another story.
After all, the film currently has a 66% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 80 reviews. As more reviews come in, the rating for “Sonic the Hedgehog” may change slightly.
Still, it’s clear that not all critics were charmed by the fast-talking blue blur from Sega’s beloved video games.
“Another shambling 1990’s I.P. gets its shot at relevance, but this unfunny and ultimately dull attempt makes you wonder how so many talented artists made something so lame,” Evan Dossey, writer at Midwest Film Journal, said in his review of the film.
The majority of the praise that was given to the film was for Jim Carrey, who portrays the villain Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik, and the return of his exaggerated and unpredictable comedic antics. His performance was often cited as the perfect counterbalance to a script comprised of “derivative” storytelling and “skimpy” character development.
“Paramount famously reworked Sonic’s initially teeth-sporting look when the first trailer triggered something akin to online panic; perhaps fans should have been consulted on the script as well,” Michael Gingold, writer for Time Out, wrote in his review of the film.
The film centers on Sonic, an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog from another dimension, who travels to Earth to escape those that want to harness his power of super-speed. After accidentally causing a massive power outage in the small town he is hiding out in, Sonic grabs the attention of a local cop and a sinister government scientist.
When the film’s first trailer dropped last May, longtime fans of the speedy blue hedgehog found the character’s facial features, including human-like teeth, and his body proportions to be inconsistent with the Sonic they grew up with in the ’90s.
Soon after, Paramount pushed the film from its November release date to February, promising to fix the animated character.
(L) The original Sonic design for “Sonic the Hedgehog, (R) the new design for “Sonic the Hedgehog’s” main character.
While the visual effects have been lauded as a stunning improvement over the initial design of Sonic, critics are less unified on their opinion of the overall film.
For some, “Sonic” was a “funny, fizzing family film” that play homage to its video game inspiration.
“Those expecting a train wreck on the level of ‘Cats’ will walk away disappointed,” Alistair Ryder, writer at The Digital Fix, said of the film. “It’s a frequently fun family film that will leave younger audiences delighted, and surprise older ones convinced it was a disaster in the making.”
Not everyone was endeared by “Sonic,” however.
“Sonic now resembles a cartoon hedgehog instead of a spray-painted marmot,” Ben Kenigsberg, writer at the New York Times, wrote. “But if anything was done to de-genericize the script, it hasn’t helped.”
The reviews are par for the course for a video game adaption. Past attempts at capturing the essence of beloved video game franchises like “Tomb Raider,” “Prince of Persia” and “Resident Evil” haven’t been well-received by critics, even if some have managed to be successful at the box office.
Still, the track record isn’t inspiring. The highest-grossing video game adaptation at the box office is “Warcraft,” based on the World of Warcraft online game. It hauled in $433.6 million in 2016, but has a 28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Currently “Sonic” is expected to garner $35 million to $45 million from Friday through Sunday, as it is one of the few family film options in theaters and many Sonic video game lovers are predicted to see the flick. For the full holiday weekend, analysts are anticipating the film will take in between $50 million and $60 million, as many schools are closed Monday for President’s Day.
Here’s a rundown of what critics have said of “Sonic the Hedgehog” ahead of its Feb. 14 opening:
Michael Gingold, Time Out
Gingold was not enamored with “Sonic the Hedgehog.” He gave the film two-out-of-five stars, calling it “yet another addition to the cannon of disappointing video-game-to-movie translations.”
“‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ is another demonstration of the things that tend to go wrong when a movie is spun out from source material with little plot and skimpy characterisation,” he wrote.
Gingold criticized the film for being “derivative” and said the character of Sonic “is an inveterate babbler who gleans only intermittent laughs.”
“Sonic’s look was famously corrected after the movie’s trailer triggered something akin to online panic; perhaps fans should have been consulted on the script as well.”
Jim Carrey stars as Dr. Ivo Robotnik in Paramount Pictures’ “Sonic the Hedgehog.”
Bilge Ebiri, Vulture
For Bilge Ebiri of Vulture, “Sonic the Hedgehog” feels like it was written and greenlit decades ago.
“This year’s ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ could have been the biggest hit of 1996, in ways both good and bad,” he wrote in his review.
For him, like many critics, the standout of the feature was Carrey who brandishes his classic exaggerated speech to deliver absurd lines like “I’m the top banana … in a world full of hungry monkeys,” all the while twirling a thick, curling mustache.
Ebiri did not provide a rating for the film.
“Carrey is the film’s most prized weapon, letting us wallow in the ridiculousness of this whole enterprise without ever holding himself above it,” Ebiri wrote. “Quite the contrary, he over commits in the best possible way. It’s like he never left us; you could half-imagine ‘Sonic’ as a third ‘Ace Ventura’ entry, only now the pet detective has lost his marbles and wants to experiment on small animals. His vitality makes an otherwise routine endeavor worthwhile. The movie is fine, but the villain’s a delight.”
Kristen Page-Kirby, The Washington Post
“Sonic the Hedgehog” has one thing going for it that no other kid’s movie this year can say — it doesn’t have any fart jokes. Okay, it has one.
“‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ may have one moment of flatulence, but this hybrid of live-action and CGI animation gets away with it, otherwise bypassing the all-too-common cheap laughs for a story that’s loaded with smart humor, snappy dialogue and the big blue heart beating at its center,” Kristen Page-Kirby of The Washington Post, wrote in her review of the film.
Page-Kirby is quick to point out that “Sonic” does have some shaky plot elements, but that overall the film has enough fun to distract from some “pointless exposition” and several cliche scenes of Sonic running so fast that he looks frozen.
She gave the film three-out-of-four stars.
“Fans of the video games will find a host of allusions, but there’s plenty to please any moviegoer who can’t tell a Sega from a Switch. In the end, “Sonic” is quippy without being mean, and sweet without being sappy, making this a trip that’s well worth taking.”
Ben Schwartz voices Sonic in Paramount Pictures’ “Sonic the Hedgehog.”
Kellen Beck, Mashable
“At a time when a large chunk of the movie industry is hellbent on capitalizing on adult nerds’ nostalgia for properties from their childhoods, ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ takes a different path: It doesn’t try to appeal to adults at all,” Kellen Beck, writer at Mashable, starts of his review of “Sonic the Hedgehog.”
Beck is quick to point out that this movie was made for kids, not adults, but that a key demographic that will enter theaters over the weekend will be millennials that grew up playing the Sega video game.
“If you’re a Sonic fan of the ’90s or ’00s hoping for some deep cut references or something that appeals to your developed tastes and critical thinking, you’ll probably walk away disappointed,” he wrote. “And if you’re looking for a fun movie full of heart and great characters, you’ll probably walk away disappointed too, because this movie feels empty, even if it is pretty.”
Beck did not provide a rating for the film.
“‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ also establishes that Sonic is an alien from a different planet than humans, which contradicts every game and show in Sonic’s history. Instead of a world where anthropomorphic animals like Sonic coexist with humans, the two groups are completely separate until Sonic arrives.
By placing Sonic onto our real world planet instead of leaning in and embracing the world that the series has built, it loses a bit of its charm.
Molly Freeman, ScreenRant
Like Mashable’s Beck, Molly Freeman, writer at ScreenRant, quickly admits that “Sonic the Hedgehog” “is very much a kids movie, for better or for worse.”
The flick is cute and engaging for a younger generation, but not quite so for older viewers. Still, parents who grew up with Sonic will enjoy some of the nostalgia-driven humor and Easter egg connections to the old video games.
“However, the movie’s formulaic and rather simplistic approach to the world of Sonic and the story ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ chooses to tell may be a bit frustrating or boring for those expecting more from the property,” she wrote.
Freeman gave the film three-out-of-five stars.
“At the end of the day, ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ does accomplish what it sets out to do: tell a fun, entertaining and heartfelt story about a young outcast hedgehog who finds his place in the world.”
Disclosure: Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC, owns Rotten Tomatoes.