The new hybrid (part animated, part live action) movie “Sonic the Hedgehog” demonstrates the significance of actors — live actors — to the success of film. Without area associate James Marsden, this wouldn’t be nearly so successful an entertainment.
“Sonic the Hedgehog” looks, on the outside, like a family movie. The matinee crowd with which I saw it was mostly parents with children under 10 years old.
But one suspects the evening showings will attract a lot of 20- and 30-somethings who grew up with Sonic video games. The quick blue hedgehog was introduced in 1991, after all, as Sega’s rival to Nintendo’s Mario. And old video game players are known to be nostalgic.
Sonic isn’t the only personality that gets recalled in the new film, though. Marsden hasn’t been in a lot of general release movies since 2014’s “The Loft.” But remember, he starred in the first X-Men series, “27 Dresses,” “Hairspray,” and the underrated “Enchanted.” I enjoyed his movie send-up Taco Bell commercials.
There was a reason for casting him in all those entertainments, of course. He is immediately likable. This quality serves him well in “Sonic.”
The movie also reintroduces Canadian Jim Carrey, once the biggest comedy draw in the business. He was the star of “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and of “Dumb and Dumber,” and then of a series of goofy comedies interrupted by his attempts to play something serious.
Here, Marsden is a Montana sheriff who has applied for a police job in San Francisco. He wants to work on more serious crimes than the ones he sees around his hometown.
Then one night, all the power goes out in the northwest corner of the country. Sonic caused the failure by moving too fast close to overhead wiring. The U.S. government reluctantly sends a nutty scientist named Dr. Robotnik (Carrey) to find the source of the outage.
Egomaniacal Robotnik and his handlebar mustache scare Sonic. The sheriff mistakenly shoots the blue, talking porcupine with a tranquilizing dart.
Then the badge-wearer begins to help our hero to avoid capture while they travel to Frisco. Sonic has used one of his gold portal rings to send his knapsack to one of those plateaus on the sides of the TransAmerica “pyramid.”
He must retrieve another ring from that pack if he’s going to give himself an escape route out of our world.
The movie turns into “Smokey and the Bandit,” part buddy picture, part road picture with a steady allowance of chase scenes. Probably any movie fan 10 or older could sketch out the remains of the plot.
Along the way, we learn a little something about Sonic’s odd powers. We visit a biker bar. Sonic makes a side trip to the world’s largest ball of rubber bands. Robotnik deploys several series of drones, some armed with guns, some with bombs and one with a cutting torch.
There are a couple of movie jokes. The one about Vin Diesel and the now officially endless “Fast and Furious” series is pretty funny. When Sonic awakens at one point, he asks if The Rock is President.
The jokes may have been updated, but Sonic hasn’t changed that much. Oh, they’ve given him more personality than a video game version could carry. But not so much that we don’t recognize the spunky little perpetual motion machine.
Carrey is doing a villainous version of a character he has shown us before. And Marsden is likable. He makes the movie human. He’s the one with the dog. No wonder we sympathize with his problems.
We want to counsel him not to go to San Francisco. Stay home with your wife, the veterinarian, and host Sega’s gift to the video-gaming world. You’ll be happier that way.