Sonic the Hedgehog (2020): Goes Fast, Does Not Crash

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“Sonic the Hedgehog” is the feature-length debut of director Jeff Fowler and stars Ben Schwartz (DuckTales, Parks and Recreation), James Marsden (Westworld, X-Men), Jim Carrey (Batman Forever, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective), and Tika Sumpter (One Life to Live, Ride Along). This movie is based on the hit SEGA video game franchise of the same name, which has officially become one of the biggest titles in the industry. The film follows Sonic, who is sent to Earth from his home world, and eventually adapts to his current lifestyle. But when one thing leads to another, he needs to go to San Francisco all the while keeping the evil Dr. Robotnik from conquering the universe. So Sonic teams up with Tom Wachowski, AKA “Donut Lord,” in order to get to his destination.

I have never dove deep into the realm of “Sonic the Hedgehog.” I know about the games and its characters, but I have barely played them. Although, if “Super Smash Bros.” counts, I have played a lot of that. But I do know a bit about the film’s source material. Sonic is a witty, upbeat character that likes to go fast, because let’s face it. If he were slow, this movie might go on longer than “The Irishman.” But one I thing I think many people going into this movie knew about waaas…

This.

This f*cking face right here graced the Internet with all the memes possible! People thought it looked creepy, revolting, and an insult to humanity! Now I’m going to be completely honest with you. I do not create content to please people, I create it to enforce my personal asshat opinions. Speaking of asshat opinions, I did not think the original design was all that bad. Now, is it great? Maybe not. But it’s not like it is the end of the world! The reality is that this is a live-action movie, and you have this cartoony character in the middle of all of it. There are a number of possibilities they could have gone with. Hell, I would have been fine if they went down the “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” route and made Sonic 2D. Would it have been weird? Sure! But again, this is an over the top animated hedgehog! I will say when I saw the first trailer, I was not as skeptical about the film as most people. It’s just a design. There have been plenty of good movies with lackluster visual effects. Look at “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” they CGIed Tarkin’s face, and it was choppy at times, but it didn’t take me out of the movie. In fact that movie’s GREAT. And say what you want about removing Henry Cavill’s mustache in “Justice League,” I enjoyed the movie. I thought it was fun. It felt rushed, it sorta clashed in tones, but it was still a fun ride.

Now to be fair, it is refreshing to have a film’s crew and the parties alongside them to respond to the fan backlash, because let’s face it. Fans can be rowdy. And the newer design that unfortunately shut down the visual effects company who worked on it, paid off. For putting in the effort and doing whatever’s possible to make the best movie you can, thank you. Movies are hard to make, I get it.

To be honest though, this does bring up something very important. I saw the first trailer and ended up feeling somewhat confident that this movie COULD work. It had the essentials for a solid story of its kind. Then I saw the second trailer with the design. Sonic looked dope, but the movie itself looked like s*it. There’s a saying that looks aren’t everything, and that is the truth about the second “Sonic the Hedgehog” trailer. A lot of comedy gags looked cheesy and weird, Sonic almost sounded kind of annoying, and it kind of had a similar vibe to “The Smurfs.” I mean what do you expect when you have a blue, animated creature from the middle of nowhere transporting themselves to our planet, uniting with a newfound human acquaintance, and unraveling a plot that affects both sides?

Cannot believe I’m saying this. Sonic freaking rocks! In fact, DARE I SAY IT. I want a sequel! This is the best video game-based film I have seen to date. Granted, I am missing a couple core titles like “Mortal Kombat” and “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” but still, this is the best video game movie I have ever seen not counting specific partially unrelated titles like “Tron,” “Ready Player One,” or “Wreck-it Ralph,” a movie which Sonic actually happened to be in.

Is it the best movie I have ever seen? Absolutely not. It doesn’t even come close, but it has pretty much what it needs to fulfill the requirements of a film of its kind. This film is for kids, there is no hiding that. But the thing I noticed is that for the most part, it doesn’t feel like it is treating kids like morons. Granted, it is not Pixar quality, but it doesn’t spend every other minute trying to make Sonic fart in Dr. Robotnik’s face. This movie has some nice nods to Sonic’s power, specifically super speed. There’s an occurrence where Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” is playing, Sonic has a comic book collection and pretty much every copy in said collection is from “The Flash,” and they even make a joke about “The Fast and the Furious.” More speed jokes, less fart jokes, I know I’m happy! My one complaint here though is that the baseball scene that is shown in the trailers is a little far-fetched, but it’s not a terrible scene, so I can kind of live with it.

Let’s be real, the Sonic character in this film is pretty much what I would want him to be. He is upbeat, he is lively, he is wild, he is fast, he is Sonic. Part of me thought that his constant hyperactivity would be a detractor of the film, and I will say that there are a couple moments where that does not help the product. There’s a moment in the trailer that is just as flat in the movie as it is there, specifically where Sonic and his newfound human acquaintance, Tom Wachowski, are passing by a sign that is advertising the world’s largest rubber band ball. It’s gags like that which don’t work. But the Sonic character is a ball of fun. He’s cute, but occasionally not cuddly. He’s almost one-dimensional, but one thing I will say about that is that the recent games from what I have seen, pretty much portray Sonic in a similar manner. He feels like a brother somebody has and they’re often annoyed by, but everyone else who knows the guy loves this brother. Sonic is my annoying brother, and I love him. Great job, Ben Schwartz!

Speaking of annoyance, Sonic is definitely annoying somebody, and that somebody is the recently mentioned Tom Wachowski who is wonderfully played by James Marsden. James Marsden is the main human character in the film, he is a cop in rural Montana, and the movie partially focuses on Wachowski’s acceptance to the police department in San Francisco, California. This partially plays into the hedgehog’s overall story, where they have to travel to San Francisco to avoid a deadly situation. The chemistry between the two here is surprisingly decent, I was never turned off. I also enjoyed his cop sideplot a little bit, but going back to unfunny jokes, there was one joke that I was able to predict pretty much what was happening right off the bat. Granted, if a kid sees it, it might be pretty funny, but not for me. I won’t go much into it, but it involves a tiny donut. Although, Tom Wachowski does earn a rather slick nickname from Sonic, specifically “Donut Lord.” Technically speaking that’s wrong, Homer Simpson is the REAL donut lord, but it is nevertheless a cool nickname.

But let’s talk about the best character in this movie, and I think a lot of people will agree with me on this, Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik. When I saw the first trailer for this film, Robotnik almost felt like a flat, beyond cartoony, madman. Having seen the film, just remove the word flat, and you get Robotnik. I watched that recently mentioned trailer thinking Robotnik could be the worst character in this movie, turns out he is probably one of the best villains I have seen in a film made for children and families! Seriously! Carrey’s portrayal is incredibly zany and electric! And this partially has to do with how well written Robotnik is. He has the stereotypical villain mindset where he thinks he is better than anybody else, but that’s what makes him so great. There’s a moment where he delivers a line to another character having to do with him being the smartest man in the world, therefore everybody else is stupid. It is one of the best executed villain lines I have ever seen! Robotnik is such a great over the top villain that he has a lightshow dance party in his lab as he does his evil deeds. There’s a screen that allows him to simulate getting his head chopped off by a dinosaur! It’s bonkers! This feels like something Robotnik would do every day after smoking a couple joints! Robotnik had the finest lines, he was in on the best jokes, and as of right now, I don’t know if anybody else could play him.

HOW AM I– WHAT IS HAPPENING?! This was supposed to suck!

Now, this movie is a surprise if there ever was one. It’s a video game movie, meaning that it is filed under a kind of movie that does not usually do well critically or financially. Time will tell how much of a financial success “Sonic the Hedgehog” will be, but I did not expect so much positivity with this film. It sort of reminds me of what people must have thought before seeing “The LEGO Movie.” But, I will admit, unlike “The LEGO Movie,” “Sonic” is not flawless.

I’m pretty sure some of you reading this know that one of the staples of filmmaking is product placement. Some movies like to fill themselves up to the brim with an effort to make commercials within the film. The “Transformers” movies are an obvious example. 2017’s “Power Rangers” wanted to remind its audience that when they think “Power Rangers,” they also think Krispy Kreme! You also have movies like “Uncle Drew” that is literally produced by Pepsi! Honestly, product placement is one of the most annoying necessities in a film. When it’s obvious, it is sometimes cringeworthy. When it’s bloated, it’s embarrassing. The reality is that I came to watch a movie, not a commercial. If I wanted commercials, I’d just watch the Super Bowl.

But hey! After watching “Sonic the Hedgehog,” why don’t you take your family to Olive Garden and get a taste of their neverending pasta bowl? IT NEVER ENDS! Maybe afterwards, you guys can look at houses on Zillow and never buy anything because your kids will miss their friends in school! Seriously! There’s like, two or three mentions of Olive Garden in this film at different times! And each time feels as commercialized as the next. I remember seeing “Blockers” a couple years ago where the main girls are making a sex pact and they reference Olive Garden, say what you want about that in terms of how obvious it is that such a mention is there to be product placement, it nevertheless feels more natural than what this movie provides!

Also, as well done as the movie is from a visual perspective, even if a little extra complaining was needed to put in more effort, there are a couple of scenes in the film where I am looking at the laser sensors from Robotnik’s minion machines where they did come off a little more cartoon-like than I would have preferred. It could have been worse, but still. There are also a couple of moments where the effects looked a little TOO GOOD, as if they were too clean and glossy. Maybe it’s just me, but a LITTLE grit could have gone a long way.

But this does not take away from “Sonic the Hedgehog’s” positives. It pays tribute to the games, while also realizing that in order to stand out, it needs to be its own thing. The performances are good and fit the characters well. Robotnik is one of the most well-written villains I have ever seen, at least in a movie for families. There is a chase towards the end that is up there with some of my favorites I have seen on screen. I am not going to go into much detail, but one more notion I want to provide about “Sonic the Hedgehog,” I THINK the writers behind “Sonic the Hedgehog” took a moment to make fun of alternate video icon, “Super Mario,” OR… THEY TEASED A VIDEO GAME CINEMATIC UNIVERSE. Overall, this kind of makes sense, Mario has crossed over with Sonic in the past, Nintendo has put Sonic in a number of games also featuring Mario characters like “Super Smash Brothers” and “Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games.” Why not bring that crossover to the realm of film? As far as I know, that might not be happening because Universal and Illumination are seemingly working on an animated “Super Mario” film and that would probably interfere with “Sonic the Hedgehog’s” universe, because it is live-action. Plus, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is under the Paramount name, so the two characters are probably under exclusive maintenance from different studios. But, you never know! Disney owns Marvel and yet they’re letting Sony collaborate with them on “Spider-Man.” Plus, Universal also has the Hulk, and yet he’s been in several of Disney’s MCU films. Anything’s possible in the money-grabbing, magical, bonkers wonderland of Hollywood! Don’t take this as news, the movie has been out for two weeks and I am not confirming anything about this.

In the end, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is fast, vast, and an utter blast! This feels like a movie that if I were a kid, it would get me more into movies, potentially even into how they’re made. Maybe it would even get me into gaming a little bit more if I were not already into that. Then again, what young boy doesn’t like a good video game? Depending on how 2020 pans out, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is highly unlikely to reach the top 10 movies of the year for me, but for now, it is easily one I’d go back and watch. While this does not say much, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is the best video game movie I have seen in my life. The competition against it is not really that stiff, but it’s the truth! With that being said, I’m going to give “Sonic the Hedgehog” a 7/10!

Thanks for reading this review! My next review I am going to be doing is for the all-new film based on truTV’s biggest show currently on the air, “Impractical Jokers: The Movie.” I love the “Impractical Jokers” TV show, so naturally I just had to check this movie out and see what it is all about. Does the show translate well to film? You’ll find out in my review! I just want to take an opportunity to wish everyone who was born on Leap Year Day a very happy birthday! It must feel great next year, for those of you who have just turned 5, to finally drink at the legal age of 5 and a fourth! In other words, happy birthday on this rare occurrence of a day! Happy Leap Year! If you want to follow Scene Before and see more great content, do so using an email or WordPress account! If you want to go all the way and support Mark Zuckerberg’s mission for social media domination, check out my Facebook page and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Sonic the Hedgehog?” What did you think about it? Or, have you played any “Sonic” games? What was that like for you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

The Grinch (2018): Two Sizes Too Small In Quality

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“The Grinch” is directed by Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets) and Scott Mosier (Clerks). This movie stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness, Sherlock) as the title character who hates Christmas and everything associated with the holiday. There have been multiple on-screen adaptations of Dr. Seuss’ children’s book, and now Illumination (Despicable Me, Sing) has attempted to create their own version of the famous story.

One strange thing about my life is how I have no memory of seeing the Jim Carrey adaptation of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”, despite how it released a year after I was born. However, I do recall watching the rather well known animated edition which took the drawing style of Seuss himself. That version was short, sweet, and very much got the point across. The Grinch is a dick and shall never be tolerated. In this new, slightly more lighthearted adaptation of the popular children’s story, The Grinch is a bit more relatable than his 1966 on-screen counterpart voiced by Boris Karloff. And to be honest, when it comes to tone, that’s where this movie sometimes fails. I know it’s a kids movie and kids movies are supposed to be less frightening than some made for adults, but I really wanted a darker tone here. I will say though, some of the music in this film, created by Danny Elfman (Spider-Man, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) actually matches that dark tone I want from a movie like this.

However, with 2018’s “The Grinch,” we get less of an emphasis of The Grinch as a monster and make him more like Squidward Tentacles from “Spongebob Squarepants.” He despises life, he lives without wanting company, and much like Squidward, hates Christmas. There’s some parts of this new Grinch that totally work. For example, Benedict Cumberbatch seems to make the Grinch his own character. If anybody can pull off The Grinch from a voice perspective, it might as well be Cumberbatch. After all, he did give one of my all time favorite voiceover performances as Smaug in “The Hobbit.” Cumberbatch comes off as depressed yet sinister, which I can tell is what the crew behind “The Grinch” was going for. Although despite mastering this Grinch, I gotta say that it didn’t equate to a quality movie. I know the formula for family movies nowadays is to inject as many silly gags as possible while still maintaining a lesson for children, and the movie does succeed at both things. However when it comes to the silly gags, some of these just felt off-putting, awkward, or just forgettable. I remember explicitly putting my hand on my head in disdain during certain parts of the film. I don’t recall which parts, but that brings two negatives to the table. Maybe a positive because now I don’t have to recall what moments made me dissatisfied. There’s this one moment during the first half of the film where The Grinch is in preparation mode, his dog notices him, and we get a shot with The Grinch’s butt going directly in our face. Keep in mind, I saw “The Grinch” in IMAX. The screen was eight stories high. So I got to see eight stories of The Grinch’s ass right in my face (including black bars, which reduces the size a ton in all technicality)! At least it wasn’t in 3D, that would be worse!

One side of the story that I honestly cannot stand involves a family in Whoville. This family has a heavy involvement with the film’s plot and even triggers in a couple of other Whos. The main thing I want to bring up is the relationship between a mother (Donna Who) and a daughter (Cindy-Loo Who). Both actresses behind these roles (Rashida Jones and Cameron Seely) did a fine job with their performances. My problem doesn’t involve their acting abilities. The big problem however is their chemistry. I know this is a kids movie. I know kids are a target audience. But keep in mind, adults are watching these films too. Who do you think happens to be taking the kids to these movies? As a technical adult at 19 years of age, I honestly felt like some of my intelligence was insulted. I can suspend my disbelief during movies. I enjoy the “Fast & Furious” franchise, and there’s a lot of other animations that wouldn’t work in the real world which I happen to admire. There are some things however, regardless of whether they are written to be animated or put into live-action, in this very movie, that I thought were an insult as soon as I saw them. The chemistry between the mother and daughter is one of those things. The mother came off as this individual who seems to know she has a daughter, but it’s like she’s viewing her as someone she doesn’t even need to protect. Keep in mind, based on her IMDb profile, I can definitely tell Cameron Seely, the voice of Cindy-Loo, is younger than me. Wouldn’t the mother be a little more worried about some of the things she does? That’s not the only suspension of disbelief I couldn’t achieve, I also couldn’t buy into the fact that one character in particular, without giving a name away, was able to find The Grinch’s house without really knowing a thing about him or where he lives. And if you think about it, it’s somewhat easy to find, but still, my complaint stands. Maybe I missed something earlier on in the movie, but when you’re in an auditorium with somebody who literally had their tablet on for pretty much the entire first half of the film, you can get distracted at times. And yes, I said TABLET. NOT A PHONE! A TABLET! And even worse, there was lots of time wasted when the kid using the device and not even doing a thing on it! It was just on the home screen! If it were being used as a closed captioning device then that’s a different story (not sure how the technology works entirely).

Let’s also talk about Kenan Thompson (Snakes On a Plane, Saturday Night Live) in this film.

What the f*ck?

His character might be the biggest stereotype for a black person I’ve seen in a film since Patty from the “Ghostbusters” remake. My f*cking gosh, I HATED this guy! One of the worst casting decisions I’ve seen in my entire life. Kenan Thompson is not a bad actor, I’ve seen him do some fine roles on “SNL.” He’s especially fantastic as Steve Harvey on all of the show’s “Family Feud” parodies. But I feel like the biggest problem with this role is that I could especially tell that Kenan Thompson’s voice is involved. Thompson has such a recognizable voice in my mind that out of every voice given in the movie, his was the most obvious. I knew Benedict Cumberbatch was playing The Grinch before going to see the movie, but had I not seen any stories or marketing related to this film, I could potentially think to myself, “Wait, that was Benedict Cumberbatch?” Kenan Thompson to my knowledge cannot alter his voice enough to make me think he’s playing someone other than himself. Part of me is willing to bet the people casting everyone into the movie wanted to cast Kenan Thompson just to say they’ve put a black guy in the film. And that is sad, because while it does bring diversity to the table, his performance just blows! The narrator for this film is black as well (Pharrell Williams). As a narrator, I felt like his voice didn’t work entirely, but it could have been worse. You know, it could have been Kenan Thompson. I’m guessing Morgan Freeman wasn’t available to narrate this bitch?

I’ll give some credit to the movie though on a few positives before I give my final verdict. This film is very well animated. It comes off as polished and some of the images from the film are some of the better ones I’ve witnessed from Illumination. Some of the voice acting worked, except for of course, Kenan Thompson. And this movie is short enough to avoid inducing a feeling of a snail’s pace. After all, it is only an hour and a half, which can be a good thing because of what I just mentioned, but to me it also makes this movie feel like even more of a cash grab than it already is. I don’t feel like I’m going to remember this “Grinch” adaptation all that much, and maybe it will be played a lot around Christmastime in years to come. Heck, “Christmas with the Kranks” is going to be on FX during the 24th of this month and the reviews of that movie certainly weren’t praising it. Anything’s possible.

In the end, “The Grinch” is certainly a mean one, and it made me feel like a Scrooge. If this movie does one thing well, it’s making The Grinch’s character relatable. Sure, he hates his life sometimes even though life for him is the complete opposite of pain and suffering. Yes, he might be out of shape. But thanks to this movie, it made me hate Christmas a little bit more than I once did! Because now we have another bad Christmas movie! Kids who watch “The Grinch” might enjoy it, but the film might end up making them dumber without said kids even realizing such a thing. Aside from some neat animation and decent voicework, there’s nothing that stands out or appears to be excellent regarding “The Grinch.” Parents, if your kids drag you this movie, do them a favor and put coal in their stocking on Christmas morning. Please? Also, tell them Santa isn’t real. I’m going to give “The Grinch” a 3/10. Thanks for reading this review! Tomorrow night I’m going to see “Second Act,” which comes out on December 21st, a little over a month from the time I’m finishing this post. I got passes for an early screening of the film, so therefore I’m gonna see “Second Act” a month early. My review will most likely be up sometime around December. Also, while I don’t really know my plans for the rest of the week or this upcoming weekend, I do have aspirations to see the new Julius Avery film “Overlord.” I heard “Overlord” flopped this weekend, so this might affect me even being able seeing it in the theater, but if it’s still there this next weekend, I should hopefully have an opportunity to check it out. Plus, I’m too behind on “Harry Potter” to see the new “Fantastic Beasts” movie. Be sure to follow me on Scene Before either with a WordPress account or an email so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Grinch?” What did you think about it? Or, which on-screen adaptation of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” is your personal favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!