“Sonic the Hedgehog” is sweet, funny and smart.

“Sonic” is swift, smart and brings back the Jim Car­rey we missed

The Washington Post - - BEST BETS - BY KRISTEN PAGE- KIRBY goin­gout­[email protected]­post.com

Ah, the joy of a kids’ movie that doesn’t have any fart jokes.

Or at least one that comes close. “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-toocom­mon cheap laughs for a story that’s loaded with smart hu­mor, snappy di­a­logue and the big blue heart beat­ing at its cen­ter.

In­spired by the pop­u­lar series of video games, “Sonic” tells the eter­nal tale of a blue hedgehog from an­other planet who runs at near-warp speed. Af­ter a rel­a­tively point­less ex­po­si­tion — there are a lot of plot el­e­ments au­di­ences will just have to roll with — Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) ar­rives in a small Mon­tana town named Green Hills, where he has to hide his speed, be­cause other­wise people will want to steal it. (Again: just roll with it. Green Hill Zone is the first level of the orig­i­nal video game.) There, he lives a soli­tary ex­is­tence, peer­ing into the lives of the towns­peo­ple in an at­tempt to as­suage his lone­li­ness.

Dur­ing a one-man base­ball game, Sonic runs fast enough to pro­duce an elec­tronic pulse that not only knocks out the town’s power, but causes satel­lites to go wonky, at­tract­ing the at­ten­tion of some vaguely men­ac­ing gov­ern­ment fig­ures. Along with said gov­ern­ment fig­ures ar­rives Dr. Ivo Robot­nik (Jim Car­rey), a bril­liant, slightly bent sci­en­tist now fixated on track­ing down and ex­per­i­ment­ing on our fuzzy friend. In an ef­fort to es­cape from Robot­nik, Sonic teams up with the town’s sher­iff, Tom (James Mars­den), with whom he hits the road to San Fran­cisco in search of a lost bag of rings that en­able Sonic to travel be­tween plan­ets. (Re­mem­ber: roll with it). Now that Sonic has been spot­ted by the Feds, it seems he has to head off-planet for his own pro­tec­tion.

These shaky plot el­e­ments ex­ist only to set up Sonic and Tom’s west­ward odyssey. Luck­ily, the des­ti­na­tion is worth the jour­ney. Sonic is grate­ful to have some­one to con­verse with — when he’s on his own, he talks to him­self — and that sweet­ness tames what could have been a char­ac­ter built solely on snark. Sonic’s en­gag­ing and ex­pres­sive face, com­bined with Schwartz’s al­ways-ex­cel­lent voice act­ing, cre­ates a char­ac­ter worth root­ing for. Mars­den is charm­ing as he goes through the tra­di­tional arc usually found in this type of movie: first, be­wil­der­ment at his dis­cov­ery of Sonic; fol­lowed by a de­sire to help him get off the planet; and ul­ti­mately end­ing up with a sin­cere friendship.

While most of the sec­ondary char­ac­ters are so lightly writ­ten that they nearly float, Car­rey’s Robot­nik — played by the hy­per­en­er­getic ac­tor op­er­at­ing at max­i­mum strength — makes for an ego­tis­ti­cal, slightly un­hinged vil­lain, whose fun­da­men­tal weird­ness is fun to watch, with­out ever be­ing re­ally scary (a boon to par­ents with younger kids). This ver­sion of Car­rey has been miss­ing from screens for a while. The last time we saw any­thing re­motely sim­i­lar was in 2014’s “Dumb and Dum­ber To.” It’s easy to for­get that his rub­ber-faced an­tics do work when used in the right set­ting.

Sonic, whose com­put­eran­i­mated ap­pear­ance in the movie’s first trailer led to wide­spread protests by fans that the char­ac­ter didn’t look quite right, re­sult­ing in a de­layed re­lease date, has since been honed into a crea­ture who re­ally seems to oc­cupy the

Sonic, voiced by Ben Schwartz, finds an ally in Tom, played by James Mars­den, in his quest to elude sin­is­ter agents and find safety off the planet. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two adds sweet­ness to the CGI star’s snark, spurred by the fact they’re be­ing pur­sued by an un­hinged vil­lain played by Jim Car­rey.

same phys­i­cal uni­verse as the hu­man char­ac­ters. (It prob­a­bly helps that he rarely touches any of them.) Jeff Fowler’s di­rec­tion keeps the movie mov­ing at a brisk pace and in­cludes a few scenes that are cre­ative enough, vis­ually, to be truly im­pres­sive.

There are a cou­ple of misses: It’s prob­a­bly time to re­tire the Queen song “Don’t Stop Me Now” as the Of­fi­cial Tune of Ac­tion Mon­tages. And we could do with one fewer Sonic-is-so-fast-that­ev­ery­one-else-looks-frozen-in­place scene.

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.


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