Skip to main content

Look what came out of my egg sac.

Sonic the Hedgehog
(2020)

(SPOILERS) On the entirely reasonable basis that it looked lousy, I dismissed Sonic the Hedgehog’s chances of being a significant box office hit (remember those?). It had already undergone widespread derision over its initial horrifying Sonic design, such that Paramount shelled out to make the zippy blue hedgehog less aesthetically repellent. It was also part of a cinematic genre – videogame adaptations – that traditionally experienced mixed fortunes at best. But no. It was a huge hit, made to look even huger through coming out prior to pressing the global autodestruct/reset button last March. Anecdotally, it also seems like a lot of punters had a good time with it. I can’t say I did. I mean, it’s better than Super Mario Bros. but that’s no kind of yardstick.

These kinds of family entertainments can blindside one, though. Be it The Flintstones movie or Inspector Gadget (an international flop, but it still made almost $100m stateside) raking in mystifying amounts of money despite meagre virtues. I didn’t even realise Sonic was still a thing, having mentally consigned him to the ’90s dumpster. This would surely thus be, at best, a picture pursuant of nostalgia appeal (it appears that ’90s window is, broadly, accurate. Although he keeps hanging in there).

Unsurprisingly then, a movie was first mooted in the early part of that decade, the Nintendo plumbers’ belly up surprisingly not – allegedly – being responsible for Sonic remaining in limbo at MGM, even with DreamWorks involved at one point. The treatment sounds lousy, with a hint of Last Action Hero in its characters escaping into the real world and a juvenile co-protagonist (the plan was for CGI Sonic even then). Notably, there’s speculation a reason for Sega nixing it might have been that “the heyday of the character was behind them” even then, making it even more surprising it should have spawned success more than twenty years later.

Paramount picked up this version after Sony decided against the movie, which manages to incorporate the game’s rings but not too much else in the way of burdensome paraphernalia. These open portals to other planets, which is how Sonic arrives on Earth (I assumed the mushroom planet was a Mario reference, but apparently not, which is a shame). I’m guessing a key problem for me is that I don’t find Sonic endearing. Ben Schwartz (BB-8) voices him as a fast-talking quipster, which may work for the kiddies, but there’s no edge to him. Plus, he still doesn’t look so hot after that facelift. If anything, I’d put the movie’s success down to Jim Carrey returning to crazy Jim Carrey mode.

Which is curious in itself. He had, after all, gone through various quite public personal and professional highs and lows. In part, he didn’t seem that interested in making massively successful comedies anymore, and no one was keen to see his more personal projects (The Number 23 was a dodo, although it may represent his greatest confessional). Only Dumber and Dumber To in the near-decade since Mr Popper’s Penguins could be called a hit, and that was significantly less of one than the original. Carrey was either off screen or restricting himself to supports and cameos (and True Crimes, a flop).

He’d also been previously outspoken on a number of subjects, including law of attraction (Noel Edmonds and him both). You can, or could, see him at Transcendental Meditation events, advocating its benefits. Profusely. He was also an anti-vaxxer, which in theory should mean he’d now be screaming from the rooftops. Rather than, you know, gearing up for a Sonic sequel. Besides which, he’d been noted for making digs at the Illuminati on Jimmy Kimmel. Then came a wrongful death suit from the family of his ex-girlfriend, and since then, Jim has been on good behaviour. Why, he’s back to being wacky. He’s been a vociferous opponent of Trump through his “artwork”. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe it’s all a grand deception; one YouTuber claims he’s the Satanic High Priest of LA (replacing Scorsese?!) Which sounds a little like becoming the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills.

Wherever the truth lurks, Carrey is mugging and gurning here with such gusto that he’s the real animated cartoon character. He appears to be having a good time as Doctor Robotnik, as well as looking significantly younger than he has of late (suspicious, or just down to a good barber, hmm?) It’s reasonably satisfying to see him mocking plank James Marsden (as Sonic’s cop sidekick), and some of his lines inevitably land (Marsden: I was breast fed, actually; Robotnik: Nice, rub that in my orphan face… this being a kids' movie and all. “Ever wonder where your tax dollars are going?” he asks rhetorically, revealing black-ops tech). He also does a crazy Carrey dance.

But even Sonic gets the occasional memorable line (“Where am I? What year is it? Is the Rock president?”) I don’t know how much is improv – all of it, with Carrey – and how much the screenplay from Pat Casey and Josh Miller, but I’m unsurprised they have no beloved prior credits to their names. Also appearing is Tika Sumpter as Marsden’s wife, who is in possession of a hauntingly large moon face.

Director Jeff Fowler graduates from visual-effects guy to feature debut and delivers some set pieces that doubtless have DC wishing they hadn’t spun wheels getting Flashpoint made. He, along with everyone else, is aboard for Sonic 2 (presumably including Fast and Furious franchise lenser Stephen F Windon; Neal Mortiz is one of the producers). That’s the tester for this kind of thing, though. Studios think they’ve hit a rich seam, and then your sequel makes half the original (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows). Of course, now, unless you’re China, cinemas are an endangered species.

Popular posts from this blog

The Illumi-what-i?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) (SPOILERS) In which Sam Raimi proves that he can stand proudly with the best – or worst – of them as a good little foot soldier of the woke apocalypse. You’d expect the wilfully anarchic – and Republican – Raimi to choke on the woke, but instead, he’s sucked it up, grinned and bore it. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is so slavishly a production-line Marvel movie, both in plotting and character, and in nu-Feige progressive sensibilities, there was no chance of Sam staggering out from beneath its suffocating demands with anything more than a few scraps of stylistic flourish intact.

This risotto is shmackin’, dude.

Stranger Things Season 4: Volume 1 (SPOILERS) I haven’t had cause, or the urge, to revisit earlier seasons of Stranger Things , but I’m fairly certain my (relatively) positive takes on the first two sequel seasons would adjust down somewhat if I did (a Soviet base under Hawkins? DUMB soft disclosure or not, it’s pretty dumb). In my Season Three review, I called the show “ Netflix’s best-packaged junk food. It knows not to outstay its welcome, doesn’t cause bloat and is disposable in mostly good ways ” I fairly certain the Duffer’s weren’t reading, but it’s as if they decided, as a rebuke, that bloat was the only way to go for Season Four. Hence episodes approaching (or exceeding) twice the standard length. So while the other points – that it wouldn’t stray from its cosy identity and seasons tend to merge in the memory – hold fast, you can feel the ambition of an expansive canvas faltering at the hurdle of Stranger Things ’ essential, curated, nostalgia-appeal inconsequentiality.

Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?

Batman (1989) (SPOILERS) There’s Jaws , there’s Star Wars , and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern blockbuster. Jaws ’ success was so profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows. Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy , to markedly less enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman in the company of Jaws as a classic movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim Burton put it, it was “ more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie ”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “ mainly boring ”. Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock to the

Is this supposed to be me? It’s grotesque.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) (SPOILERS) I didn’t hold out much hope for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent being more than moderately tolerable. Not so much because its relatively untested director and his co-writer are mostly known in the TV sphere (and not so much for anything anyone is raving about). Although, it has to be admitted, the finished movie flourishes a degree of digital flatness typical of small-screen productions (it’s fine, but nothing more). Rather, due to the already over-tapped meta-strain of celebs showing they’re good sports about themselves. When Spike Jonze did it with John Malkovich, it was weird and different. By the time we had JCVD , not so much. And both of them are pre-dated by Arnie in Last Action Hero (“ You brought me nothing but pain ” he is told by Jack Slater). Plus, it isn’t as if Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten have much in the way of an angle on Nic; the movie’s basically there to glorify “him”, give or take a few foibles, do

All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies.

Watership Down (1978) (SPOILERS) I only read Watership Down recently, despite having loved the film from the first, and I was immediately impressed with how faithful, albeit inevitably compacted, Martin Rosen’s adaptation is. It manages to translate the lyrical, mythic and metaphysical qualities of Richard Adams’ novel without succumbing to dumbing down or the urge to cater for a broader or younger audience. It may be true that parents are the ones who get most concerned over the more disturbing elements of the picture but, given the maturity of the content, it remains a surprise that, as with 2001: A Space Odyssey (which may on the face of it seem like an odd bedfellow), this doesn’t garner a PG certificate. As the makers noted, Watership Down is at least in part an Exodus story, but the biblical implications extend beyond Hazel merely leading his fluffle to the titular promised land. There is a prevalent spiritual dimension to this rabbit universe, one very much

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

Whacking. I'm hell at whacking.

Witness (1985) (SPOILERS) Witness saw the advent of a relatively brief period – just over half a decade –during which Harrison Ford was willing to use his star power in an attempt to branch out. The results were mixed, and abruptly concluded when his typically too late to go where Daniel Day Lewis, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro had gone before (with at bare minimum Oscar-nominated results) – but not “ full retard ” – ended in derision with Regarding Henry . He retreated to the world of Tom Clancy, and it’s the point where his cachet began to crumble. There had always been a stolid quality beneath even his more colourful characters, but now it came to the fore. You can see something of that as John Book in Witness – despite his sole Oscar nom, it might be one of Ford’s least interesting performances of the 80s – but it scarcely matters, or that the screenplay (which won) is by turns nostalgic, reactionary, wistful and formulaic, as director Peter Weir, in his Hollywood debu

Get away from my burro!

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) (SPOILERS) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is beloved by so many of the cinematic firmament’s luminaries – Stanley Kubrick, Sam Raimi, , Paul Thomas Anderson and who knows maybe also WS, Vince Gilligan, Spike Lee, Daniel Day Lewis; Oliver Stone was going to remake it – not to mention those anteriorly influential Stone Roses, that it seems foolhardy to suggest it isn’t quite all that. There’s no faulting the performances – a career best Humphrey Bogart, with director John Huston’s dad Walter stealing the movie from under him – but the greed-is-bad theme is laid on a little thick, just in case you were a bit too dim to get it yourself the first time, and Huston’s direction may be right there were it counts for the dramatics, but it’s a little too relaxed when it comes to showing the seams between Mexican location and studio.

If that small woman is small enough, she could fit behind a small tree.

Stranger Things Season 4: Volume 2 (SPOILERS) I can’t quite find it within myself to perform the rapturous somersaults that seem to be the prevailing response to this fourth run of the show. I’ve outlined some of my thematic issues in the Volume 1 review, largely borne out here, but the greater concern is one I’ve held since Season Two began – and this is the best run since Season One, at least as far my failing memory can account for – and that’s the purpose-built formula dictated by the Duffer Brothers. It’s there in each new Big Bad, obviously, even to the extent that this is the Big-Bad-who-binds-them-all (except the Upside Down was always there, right?) And it’s there with the resurgent emotional beats, partings, reunions and plaintively stirring music cues. I have to be really on board with a movie or show to embrace such flagrantly shameless manipulation, season after season, and I find myself increasingly immune.

What’s so bad about being small? You’re not going to be small forever.

Innerspace (1987) There’s no doubt that Innerspace is a flawed movie. Joe Dante finds himself pulling in different directions, his instincts for comic subversion tempered by the need to play the romance plot straight. He tacitly acknowledges this on the DVD commentary for the film, where he notes Pauline Kael’s criticism that he was attempting to make a mainstream movie; and he was. But, as ever with Dante, it never quite turns out that way. Whereas his kids’ movies treat their protagonists earnestly, this doesn’t come so naturally with adults. I’m a bona fide devotee of Innerspace , but I can’t help but be conscious of its problems. For the most part Dante papers over the cracks; the movie hits certain keynotes of standard Hollywood prescription scripting. But his sensibility inevitably suffuses it. That, and human cartoon Martin Short (an ideal “leading man” for the director) ensure what is, at first glance just another “ Steven Spielberg Presents ” sci-fi/fantas