Delayed and re-designed after early trailers had fans of the video game “Sonic the Hedgehog” up in arms, the end product movie adaptation isn’t remotely as bad as one might fear.
Sure, it’s very very VERY small-child friendly, with a cute fuzzy (digitally animated) hero and fart jokes. And little else.
And maybe it’s churlish to point out — as many are — that casting James Marsden as the human who must aid alien Sonic in his quest is entirely too similar to the role (matching scenes, even) Marsden played opposite a rebellious CGI teen Easter Bunny in 2011’s human-plus-animated-co-star flop, “Hop.”
Lovely Tika Sumpter of the “Ride Along” movies (and “Southside with You”) is “the wife,” and has nothing to play. Nor does legendary character actor Neal McDonough, as the head military man on the scene when the hedgehog knocks out the power to Green Hills, Montana. That’s where Marsden’s Sheriff Tom Wachowski whiles away the hours wondering if his radar gun works.
Until Sonic shows up. Sonic, you remember, is very very fast.
But eventually Jim Carrey makes his entrance as the villain, all mustache and ego and wild-eyes and gadgets and insults, and things turn funnier. Because nobody gives better comic villain value than Carrey.
“I’m the TOP BANANA in a world of hungry little monkeys!”
The origin story starts Bambi-sad, with Sonic chased off his home world, losing his owl caregiver in the process but bequeathed a sack of gold rings.
He can use these to wormhole his way anywhere — across town or across the universe. Remember, this IS based on a video game of Japanese origin.
Sonic, voiced by Ben Schwartz of “Parks & Rec” and the funny stand-up comedy dramedy “Standing Up, Falling Down,” settles into a blue alien hedgehog cave that he fills with cast-off decor from all around, wearing mismatched sneakers that he wears out with his sound-barrier-chasing speed.
Sonic. Get it?
Sheriff Wachowski is longing for a change of scene. He and his veterinarian wife pine for the excitement of San Francisco, leaving Montana, “where the men are men and the sheep don’t mind,” to the sheep.
Sonic spies on the locals and nicknames the sheriff “Donut Lord” for obvious reasons, until that night they cross paths, Sonic gets on the wrong side of a tranquilizer dart and he makes the power go out for miles in every direction.
He can do that.
The Marines (McDonough) are not enough of a response to this. Veteran alien hunter and government-connected scientist and “psychological tire fire” Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Carrey) shows up in the coolest Freightliner this side of “Universal Soldier.”
And the mad chase is on.
Carrey’s pop-eyed villainy takes many forms. He whistles “Ride of the Valkyries” as he tracks the alien. He threatens humans like the sheriff, but begins with insults.
“I was spitting out formulas while you were spitting UP formula!”
He does experiments in his vast tractor trailer while dancing to his jam –– “Where Evil Grows” by The Poppy Family. Yes, Dr. Robotnik, like Carrey himself, must be a Canadian Baby Boomer to summon up that one.
He’s all quips — “Eeny, meany miny MAYHEM,” and puns — “You just sit there and be You…sless!” — and killer drones.
What “Donut Lord and the Blue Blur,” aka hapless small town sheriff and hedgehog, stand a chance?
Schwartz doesn’t bring much other than youthful (ish) bubbliness to the voice-acting, Marsden probably figured out the “Hop” connection AFTER his agent did and Carrey can only do so much.
This isn’t the best film to make one’s feature directing debut with. But Jeff Fowler had an animation research job on “Where the Wild Things Are,” so he’s just happy to be here. It’s doubtful anybody else could have gotten more out of this limp script.
But I dare say hedgehog-sized tykes — say seven-and-under — will be tickled enough by this to make it a late-winter sleeper.
MPAA Rating: PG for action, some violence, rude humor and brief mild language.
Cast: The voice of Ben Schwartz, with James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Neal McDonough and Jim Carrey.
Credits: Directed by Jeff Flower, script by Patrick Casey and Josh Miller, based on the SEGA video game. A Paramount release.
Running time: 1:39