Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Sonic the Hedgehog.”
The Movie: “Sonic the Hedgehog”
Starring: Ben Schwartz, James Marsden, Jim Carrey
Director: Jeff Fowler
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) After discovering a small, blue, fast hedgehog, a small-town police officer must help him defeat an evil genius who wants to do experiments on him.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 64 percent
Brown: We at the JOE-DOWN have a fraught relationship with video game movies.
Back in December 2018, Froemming and I took part in Video Game Month, where we watched four objectively bad movies in: “Street Fighter”; “Mortal Kombat”; “Double Dragon”; and the worst of them all: “Super Mario Bros.” I will go to the grave praising “Street Fighter” just for Raul Julia’s performance as M. Bison.
So after getting through a conservative’s wet dream last week in “Invasion U.S.A.,” I wanted to go back to a video game movie.
So excuse me while I dust off the ol’ Genesis…
That start-up screen makes me so happy.
See, in the early-mid ‘90s, I was all about the Sega Genesis. Hell, I had Sega Channel, which cemented my status as a upper middle class kid from the suburbs. I loved Sonic games. Note the word loved because, well, they’re not great games. Speedy Sonic doesn’t mesh with precise movements in a platformer.
Then, it was announced that Sonic was getting his own movie. The first trailer came out and OH MY GOD WHY?!
Luckily, the public outcry was enough to get Sonic reanimated to make him, you know, NOT have human teeth.
Now, would Sonic’s introduction to film be as disastrous as Mario and Luigi’s? We’ll get into it.
Froemming, give us your first thoughts while I play baseball with myself.
Froemming: I, too, was a Sega kid. I decided on having a Genesis in the early ‘90s for reasons I do not care to get into now, but the first game I got for it was “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” and you know what? I STILL HAVE THAT GENESIS AND GAME! Granted, not hooked up at the moment, but my dad gave me a box of my old crap last winter and the old Genesis and my games were in it.
Now, the last time we watched a video game movie it was “Super Mario Bros.” which I made you leave my home with, because I did not need that kind of negativity in my life.
Brown: That DVD is STILL in the trunk of my car.
Froemming: Then when the first trailer came out and Sonic looked like he belonged with the deranged family from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” I did not have high hopes for this.
Then there is the mystery of why Jim Carrey was in this, as he has not stepped foot in a film like this since the 1990s. All signs, alas, pointed to this being a shit sandwich.
It isn’t a shit sandwich, we will get into in the review, but this was, dare I say, not terrible?
Brown, while I ponder why Jim Carrey looks like alt-right asshole Richard Spencer in this, why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: First off, with the credits, we have to acknowledge that our old pals, Original Films, are the producers of “Sonic the Hedgehog.” Yes, the people who brought us “The Fast and the Furious” movies are charged with making “Sonic the Hedgehog.” That’s a big thumbs up.
Froemming: We are full-blown addicts of the “Fast and Furious” world now, aren’t we?
Brown: We can quit whenever we want, Froemming! We’re just partying right now! We’ll stop later!
Then we get some voiceover from Sonic, who is voiced by Ben Schwartz. So expect a bunch of references to Jean-Ralphio from “Parks & Rec” in this review.
Sonic is not from our planet; instead, he’s from some jungle planet where his guardian is an owl named Longclaw and he’s chased by the locals for reasons.
One day, the locals of the planet chase after Sonic, presumably to figure out his supersonic speed powers. During said chase, Longclaw is hit with a spear and is doomed, so in desperation, she throws a ring that has the ability to transport Sonic to a new world: Earth.
I mean, if you had 50 rings in the game and hit a checkpoint, you could transport to a place in hopes of capturing a Chaos Emerald, so sure, I’ll accept this, movie.
It’s here that Sonic is brought to Earth. Namely, Green Hills, Montana. Green Hill Zone is always the starting level in Sonic games, so I like that nod. But Montana? Really?
Froemming: So, Sonic has this sack of gold rings, does that mean he is…
So, Sonic is magically whisked away to Montana, which if I had a choice of a state to live in, that would be it. So suck on that, Brown.
Here we find Sonic has a healthy life of stalking local police officer
Christopher Cross Tom Wachowski, and his life with his wife in Montana. He spies on them on movie night, where his favorite film is “Speed,” which reminded me we need to do that for a JOE-DOWN at some point.
Brown, do you think Tom and his wife, Maddie, survived the Ikea test for relationships?
Brown: I just kept thinking that Officer Tom was a discount Zac Efron.
Also, this is how Sonic is when he’s observing/stalking Tom and his wife’s lives:
Froemming: This is how it looked to me.
Brown: Sonic may be the least subtle character we’ve seen in a while considering how fast, loud and obnoxious he can be. Sonic is cocaine incarnate, though I will say he’s extremely charming.
I mean, look how happy he made this turtle! The (REDACTED) turtle is smiling! And any scene that has Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” is a winner in my book.
Froemming: Is it sad that we are in our 30s and Sonic’s cave is cleaner than our apartments?
Brown: I was living in blissful ignorance until you had to bring it up, Froemming, you asshole.
Froemming: Well, Tom gets a letter saying he is accepted into the San Francisco Police Department, which is I guess a good step, but he better prepare for the outrageous cost of living out there and all the dangerous smug.
Meanwhile, Sonic heads to the local ballpark and plays baseball alone, like how I play basketball these days. And when I was a child. A fat, lonely child. Now a fat, lonely man.
Well, Sonic realizes his loneliness and runs the bases until he causes a massive, blue-glow looking…
Which knocks out the electricity in town, and catches the eye of the federal government. Which is more concerned about this than the poison water in Flint, Mich.
Brown: Wow, Froemming bringing in the topical humor. Now I’m bummed out.
Now, apparently Sonic’s power surge causes an outage across the entire Pacific Northwest. Question: When the (REDACTED) did Montana become part of the Pacific Northwest?
Froemming: Well, this at least kinda explains the ending of “Twin Peaks: The Return.”
Brown: Look, I watch “Twin Peaks” the same way Homer Simpson does.
Wanting to find out what caused such a power spike in a quaint Montana town, the government gets the help of Dr. Robotnik (Carrey), a genius/megalomaniac who apparently drives a bus that is piloted by HAL 9000?
And man… Jim just goes for it in this movie. He’s way over the top in the way that everyone loved him in the ‘90s with stuff like “Ace Ventura” and “The Mask” and less like how over the top he was as a method actor in “Man on the Moon.”
Froemming, what did you think of this “return to form” for Jim Carrey?
Froemming: Part of me enjoyed it. Part of me could not sanction his buffoonery.
Now, Dr. Robotnik is a genius who talks down to people and dresses, again, like world class asshole Richard Spencer.
Yeah, I linked that song twice. I don’t care one bit about nazis being punched in the face.
Brown: No objection here.
Froemming: Anywho, Robotnik goes to Montana to investigate what caused this power surge with his team and an army of drones to violate people’s Fourth Amendment. He examines a footprint and makes out that the thing that made it is not from this world.
Brown: As Robotnik’s drones are searching through the woods, I kept laughing because this was basically Sonic’s version of “First Blood.” There’s a part of me that wanted to see Sonic fashion booby traps out of sharpened wood.
Looking for protection, Sonic heads to Tom’s house in what can be the only time in 2020 that an illegal alien willingly goes to the police for help. Guess ICE hasn’t made its way to Montana yet.
Thinking there’s a raccoon going through the garbage, Tom grabs a tranquilizer gun that would be strong enough to kill a raccoon, according to his wife, Maddie. Tom is excited about this prospect.
So yeah, we have a cop who is excited to use excessive force on nature. Good luck with him, San Francisco…
Of course, Tom finds and knocks out Sonic with a tranquilizer round to the knee.
Froemming: Because this cop was startled and shot Sonic because he is naturally jittery, Sonic drops his sack of gold rings into a portal to San Francisco — Sonic was about to head to the sad mushroom world (was this a dig at Mario?) that was to be his next home, but saw Tom’s San Francisco shirt and thus the portal opened to there — and now he is trapped in Montana. In a cage. In a crazed cop’s home.
Brown: Question: Why didn’t Sonic just transport to either the mushroom planet (which is where the writers of this movie frequented while putting this movie together) or somewhere across Earth while the heat died down? I thought at first that you could only go to a world once with the rings but nope, during the climax, the rings are used to go to Green Hills several times. Not to mention France and Egypt.
Sonic could have easily gotten away from everyone without resorting to a bloodthirsty cop. Hell, get out of America and the government/Robotnik’s jurisdiction.
*Sigh* Froemming, go get the Michael Bay/Ben Affleck clip because I know that’s where we’re going…
Froemming: I doubt that would work. Here is a brief history lesson for you, Brown.
Anyway, Robotnik tracks Sonic to Tom’s house, where he knocks on the door ready to boss this cop around.
This is white privilege in a nutshell. Some guy dressed like an 1800s gold miner crossed with the strangest of the Third Reich bossing a cop, on this cop’s property, around.
Tom, agreeing to hide Sonic for some reason, plays arrogant and dumb, pushing the buttons of Robotnik, who comes off more like Ted Cruz picking a fight for someone than fighting his own battles.
Meanwhile, Robotnik’s drones are violating Tom’s Fourth Amendment and are in his house scanning for alien beings or something.
Brown: When Robotnik finds Sonic, Tom punches out the good doctor, giving him and Sonic the moment they need to hop in a pickup truck and haul ass to San Francisco.
Froemming: I know they are heading West, but this song should have played anyway.
Brown: After, you know, assaulting a government scientist, Tom gets labeled a domestic terrorist.
But apparently word travels slow in the Pacific Northwest (??) because the two end up at a biker bar complete with a mechanical bull…
Oh GOD, they’re at Gilly’s, aren’t they, Froemming?
Sonic sneaks into the hillbilly bar to checkoff something on his bucket list. He sports a cowboy hat, sunglasses and whatnot to remain hidden, but he is obviously a bright blue hedgehog and I don’t care what weird medical excuse Tom comes up with to trick the waitress. This is not something of this earth.
And since this is a redneck bar, we obviously get into a brawl!
Wait, that is the wrong movie. Eh, basically the same thing.
Brown: In a movie that was released in 2020, I’m kind of stunned that full-scale bar fights are still a thing used in movies.
However, it does give us one plot point that comes up later by giving the audience the full scope of Sonic’s speed. See, with Sonic’s… ahem… supersonic speed, he seemingly moves at a normal speed while the world around him goes at a snail’s pace. So he’s able to rig the fight around him to end in him and Tom’s favor and…
Jesus, they ripped off “Futurama” when Fry has 100 cups of coffee in a day.
Froemming: Well, they ripped off the Quicksilver scenes from the X-Men movies:
Brown: Also, due to Sonic’s love of chili dogs (which is canon), we have fart jokes, too. And slowly, a friendship is budding between Sonic and Tom.
Meanwhile, when recovering from being KO’d like Glass Joe, Robotnik finds one of Sonic’s quills and discovers that even something as minor as a quill harnesses, as my pal Emperor Palpatine says…
This, of course, leads to Dr. Robotnik dancing. And yeah, this is an unnecessary scene but I’ll be damned if I don’t enjoy a moment when Jim Carrey can showcase his uncanny physical comedy. Even if he does look like a member of the Proud Boys throughout this movie.
Froemming: Robotnik tracks them down on the old dusty highway, and Sonic uses his superpower to knock Robotnik’s weird ass truck thing on its side. Then, I got flashbacks from “Wild Wild West,” because Robotnik’s vehicle is like the crazy train in that movie, and has smaller vehicles that pop out of it.
Which destroys Tom’s truck. Look man, I know you are going to be getting that San Francisco money now, but that truck was perfectly fine and you should have been more careful with it.
Brown: Mad robotic scientists love their Russian nesting doll-type robots, don’t they? I mean, a high-speed car chase with all sorts of robots attacking and whatnot… way to stick to your bread and butter, Original Film.
During this sequence, Sonic is wounded so Tom hauls ass to San Francisco to find his wife, who just so happens to be a veterinarian. How convenient!
She’s also staying with her sister, who is pretty much Aunt Patty/Selma from “The Simpsons.” The sister’s entire point of existing in this universe is to convince Maddie to get a divorce. I wonder if the sister also loves “MacGyver.” Don’t ever badmouth “MacGyver” around her. Ever.
Froemming: Then they end up tying up the sister — in her own home — so she won’t call the cops on them. They then head to Transamerica Pyramid, where Sonic’s magic rings are still at the top of. For some reason, Sonic just can’t run up the building — despite everything I ever learned about him from the games — so they need to sneak in with Sonic in a duffle bag.
Um, OK Tom flashes his Montana PD badge and that gets them in? And then people are just OK with this cop having what he calls a child stuffed into this duffle bag? None of this adds up to me.
Brown: I just don’t want Sonic in San Francisco. He tore up that city last time he was there. He snowboarded on pavement for God’s sake!
So Sonic gets his rings through the power of police overreach and is about to disappear to the mushroom planet until Robotnik shows up in a flying dohickamabob (technical term), along with a bunch of droids ready to capture Sonic.
As Robotnik fires, Sonic becomes Neo from “The Matrix” once again. Only, now with the harnessed power of Sonic’s quill, Robotnik is able to keep up with Sonic’s super speed.
That’s great and all… I get that the robotic aircraft can keep up with Sonic, but Robotnik is just a man. There’s no way his senses and reflexes can comprehend, let alone keep up with any of this speed
Froemming: Mythbusters clip on this scene, or your hypothesis is void, Brown.
Brown: I wish I could void you, Froemming.
Froemming: Well, through the power of the rings we have Sonic and Robotnik destroying the Sphinx and pyramids of Egypt and then back to Montana, where we get the final showdown between an alt-right asshole and a blue alien from a video game planet.
Brown: Now with the power of friendship *audible groan* Sonic can harness his power. And with one Sonic dash at Robotnik, timed with a ring toss from Tom, Sonic bashes Robotnik into the mushroom planet, saving Sonic, his friends and all of Green Hills from disaster.
You would think the government would be angry about, you know, a cop aiding and abetting an alien to the presumed death of a government scientist. But no; Tom and Maddie get an Olive Garden gift card for their silence on the whole matter.
I laughed. I could totally see Trump offering Olive Garden gift cards to outgoing administration members for their silence on his utter incompetence.
Then, Sonic finds out that Tom and Maddie moved all of Sonic’s stuff from his cave home to their attic so he can hide out there? Gee, congrats, Sonic… you’re now Anne Frank.
Froemming: Or the new ALF?
Brown: Holy (REDACTED), is ALF an allegory for Anne Frank and not some ‘80s coke dream?
Then we see Robotnik shaving his head with a rock, which holy crap that had to hurt. He now looks like a skinny version of his video game self, which leads us to sequel bait. This and the mid-credit scene with Tails!
Unless we watch “Sonic 2” for a JOE-DOWN, I honestly will probably never see it. Not that this was bad, it is just not something I would go out of my way to see.
Brown, let’s toss our gold rings and portal jump our way to recommendations!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Yes. This one was a lot of fun. Schwartz does Sonic’s attitude justice and Jim Carrey reverts to his ‘90s self here. Can’t think of any better video game movie up to this point.
Froemming: Sure. This was a fun movie. Probably the best video game movie I have seen. But that is not exactly a high bar. It was fun, check it out.