Sonic the Hedgehog (3 stars)

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sega's iconic furball speeds onto the big screen for a derivative but enjoyable adventure

The movie outing for Sega's speed freak has endured a choppy ride to the screen, with the filmmakers forced to fix their design of the titular tearaway following angry online reactions to the trailer. The derivative script for director Jeff Fowler's live-action / CGI hybrid could have used some fixing, too, but at least Sonic himself emerges as the runaway star of a run-of-the-mill run-around, leaving Jim Carrey mugging frantically on the starting line.

Gamely voiced by comedian Ben Schwartz (perhaps best known for playing Jean-Ralphio in TV's Parks and Recreation), Sonic makes a cutely cartoonish hero as we find him alone on Earth, forced to watch his favourite movie (Speed – what else?) through other folks' windows. When a power surge alerts US authorities to the other-worldly critter's presence, he goes on the lam, with speed cop Tom (James Marsden) as his reluctant partner; meanwhile, chin-jutting villain Dr Robotnik (Carrey) twitches his 'tache in pursuit.

Scriptwriters Patrick Casey and Josh Miller breezily steer Sonic down well-mapped odd-couple and chase-movie highways, with Alvin and the Chipmunks and Easter comedy Hop (also starring Marsden) as signposts. You'll feel a need for more speed though as Tom's work issues are dawdled over, while Carrey's return to madcap mode seems more tired than wired, right down to his – look away, kids – pole-dancing skit.

But things perk up with a high-tech road chase and a biker-bar visit, playful set-pieces that nevertheless echo other, better films. A fur-based sight gag is pinched from Paddington and a time-lapsing brawl from X-Men: Days of Future Past, but both land with disarming charm and cheek. As the plot heads towards a lively climax involving Sonic's location-hopping magic rings, the fast-paced furball generates enough goodwill to stay ahead of expectations, outstripping various underachieving video-game movie competitors on his merry way. And with pedal-to-metal practice on Mad Max: Fury Road behind him, Junkie XL's funky, frisky score helps sustain the momentum.

General release from Fri 14 Feb.

Sonic the Hedgehog

  • 3 stars
  • 2020
  • US / Japan
  • 1h 38min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Jeff Fowler
  • Cast: James Marsden, Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter
  • UK release: 14 February 2020

Sonic (Schwartz) finds himself alone on Earth, on the run from the authorities, with villain Dr Robotnik (Carrey) also in pursuit. A derivative script and a rather tired performance from Carrey aside, it’s got disarming charm and cheek and Sonic is a cutely cartoonish hero.