All publicity is not good publicity, as the team behind the live-action Sonic the Hedgehog discovered when the film’s trailer was released in April 2019. Fans of the 1991 Sega video game were disturbed by the animated blue hedgehog’s uncanny human proportions, and so the project was delayed six months in order to “fix” the problem. The freshly redesigned Sonic, voiced by Parks and Recreation’s Ben Schwartz, is certainly cuter than his previous iteration, squat and cheeky next to James Marsden’s sleepy, Hollywood-handsome sheriff. Yet as in the case of Tom Hooper’s hastily smoothed-out Cats, the improved visual effects do little to enhance the two-dimensional storytelling.
An over-explained and all-too-brief prologue sets up Sonic as an orphaned loner whose powers of super-speed have forced him into exile on Earth. I’d have liked to have seen more of Sonic’s video game inspired-world; instead, the action is grounded in Green Hills, Montana, where Marsden’s Tom Wachowski becomes Sonic’s first real friend, keeping him from the sticky clutches of goofy drone-lord Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey, underwritten and overdoing it). Marsden is charming enough, summoning surprising chemistry with Schwartz, and so it’s not total torture spending an hour and a half with the pair. Yet for better or worse, it doesn’t linger.