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A Bemused Dad’s Guide to ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’

You won’t even notice our hero’s teeth. Probably.

Paramount/Ringer illustration

Since you asked, I’ll tell you the best part of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, according to both the fellow bemused dad sitting near me (he chuckled) and my 6-year-old sitting right next to me (he started spontaneously dabbing).

This occurred during the Slow-Motion Honky-Tonk Bar Fight, undertaken by Sonic (a spunky and lightning-fast space hedgehog first introduced in a rad 1991 Sega Genesis game) and James Marsden (playing a charmingly doofy Montana sheriff) after a pack of looming honky-tonk toughs accuse them of being hipsters. (I don’t believe either the 6-year-old or his 8-year-old brother had ever heard that word before.) Cue the punching, the nachos-flinging, the cascades of beer, the atomic wedgie, the full-body toilet-papering (Sonic is much faster than everyone, hence the slow-mo), the bemused chuckling, the dabbing. For most of the movie, I didn’t think about Sonic’s teeth at all.

You may recall that Sonic the Hedgehog’s first trailer, unleashed in April 2019, triggered a barrage of online derision on account of Sonic’s “creepy human teeth.” Cue the memes, the gleeful content (Vulture interviewed a real-life “hedgehog dentist”), the superfan outrage such that Sonic’s release was delayed three months, from November 2019 to February 2020, to allow for last-second dental redesigns at humiliating studio expense. (“Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be,” first-time director Jeff Fowler tweeted sweatily.) What a fiasco. Anytime an outraged internet seizes control of an upcoming movie and manages to dictate its tone, its visual effects, or even its very title (see the 2006 cautionary tale Snakes on a Plane), that movie is doomed to mega-flop ignominy, not to mention even more outrage and derision.

Yeah, except the sweatily revamped Sonic came out Friday and immediately banked a projected $70 million, a new video-game-movie record. (Eat it, Detective Pikachu.) Even the reviews were decent: For a while there, the film had the nicest possible Rotten Tomatoes score. Best of all, Sonic’s teeth looked fine. The whole movie: also fine. The kids enjoyed it quite a bit; I likewise enjoyed it quite a bit on account of it dissuading the kids from tearing up the house for a couple of hours. I am begging you not to go see this if you don’t likewise have young children to amuse/dissuade.

OK, not begging, but have some respect for yourself. There is a youthful faction of my Ringer colleagues who seem to enjoy going to see kids’ movies ironically and/or stoned-ly, including, say, that Peter Rabbit movie with the controversial scene making light of Domhnall Gleeson’s character’s blackberry allergy. (The New Yorker’s Richard Brody wrote about it.) To surrender both money and time to a children’s film as a childless person is an egregious waste of your time, and one you will come to regret should you ever find yourself a beleaguered parent of young children with, like, way less time to waste, seriously.

Hear me now and believe me later: Don’t go see Peter Rabbit if you don’t absolutely have to. Same deal for Sonic the Hedgehog, though as video game movies about blazing-fast space hedgehogs befriended by James Marsden go, it’s top five for sure. This film is not for you, nor is it really for the vast majority of the internet hordes who spent much of 2019 crabbing about it so effectively that they effectively commandeered it. Here in the winter-blasted Midwest—the kids cooped up, the adults biding their time until Portrait of a Lady on Fire opens somewhere besides New York and L.A.—Sonic is a necessary evil, albeit a surprisingly pleasant and tolerable one. Everybody else, stay out of it.

What primarily makes Sonic so pleasant is the ever-baffling presence of Jim Carrey, playing the villainous Dr. Robotnik (“That’s the bad guy,” my 6-year-old announced the first several times Carrey appeared onscreen) as (I’m just guessing here) a flamboyant tribute to former Interpol bassist Carlos D. (The jet-black fashionista outfit, the mustache, the weird computer gloves, the rampant smarm.) Sonic, voiced by Parks and Recreation vet Ben Schwartz, is a turbocharged extraterrestrial hedgehog hunted for his superpowers on a lush 16-bit-evoking jungle planet and raised by a sentient owl named Longclaw, who gives him a bag of interdimensional-portal-opening golden rings and sacrifices herself to those hunters so that Sonic might escape to rural Montana, where he gets lonely and bored and eventually causes a huge power surge that attracts the attention of both Marsden’s doofy sheriff and Carrey’s government-spook supervillain. A wacky road trip to San Francisco ensues.

That’s all the plot anyone can stand, though admittedly it all makes way more sense than the past two movies my kids saw in the theater: Dolittle and The Rise of Skywalker. This is also the most sense Carrey has made in a movie since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He spends much of his screen time hamming it up in a Knight Rider–via–The Matrix semi truck full of evil-villain tech, thrusting his pelvis villainously to the Poppy Family’s 1971 psych-pop deep cut “Where Evil Grows” and delivering ludicrous dialogue with even more ludicrous gravitas. “Good morning, my rural chum!” “Are you enjoying the clam chowder?” (That’s in San Francisco.) “I see you’ve taken a lover!” “Confidence! A fool’s substitute for intelligence!” “Of course I want a latte! I love the way you make them!” “My grasp on sanity remains absolute!” The most villainous thing Dr. Robotnik does is spoil the end of Charlotte’s Web, which my 6-year-old happens to be currently reading, though mercifully I think he was too busy dabbing to notice.

Anyway, Carrey and Marsden develop a fearsome “Pacino vs. De Niro in Heat” rapport. Just kidding.

CARREY: “I was spitting out formulas while you were spitting up formula.”

MARSDEN: “I was breastfed, actually.”

CARREY: “Nice. Rub that in my orphan face, why don’t ya?”

Olive Garden jokes, Uber jokes, Keanu Reeves in Speed jokes, Amazon drone jokes, myriad fart jokes. (Sonic himself rips a big one in a cheap motel.) Carrey refers to Adam Pally’s even doofier Montana cop as “Officer Brain-Fart”; Insecure’s Natasha Rothwell has a small part as Marsden’s disgusted sister-in-law, and her best line is, “I have to go to the bathroom.” The fellow bemused dad sitting near me cheerfully hummed along to a piano cover of the original Genesis game’s beloved Green Hill Zone theme as the movie reached its semi-violent and semi-touching climax. (Sonic gets a high five.) There were audible gasps, from adults and children alike, at a mid-credit-scene reveal of another beloved Sonic universe character slated for a future sequel that is now, given this movie’s unlikely box office success, all but assured. The memes will practically meme themselves.

Mission accomplished. The mission: kill some time. I wish Birds of Prey had made as much money on its opening weekend as Sonic did, though I can’t swear to you that it’s a better movie. Per the trailers beforehand, next up, in April, we’ve got, ha, look at that, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. The kids are excited. I’m excited if they’re excited. But unless you’ve got minors of your own to distract, I had better not see you there.