Opinion: My Kids Are Going to Love 'Sonic the Hedgehog'
Like many online Americans, I was consumed with equal parts horror and fascination watching the first trailer for Paramount's Sonic the Hedgehog on Tuesday morning.
And while I, too, was confused by Sonic's new look, and very confused when, by the end of the trailer he still hadn't pulled out a trampoline or a T-shirt cannon, one singular, powerful thought elbowed its way through the half-formed D-League mascot jokes, past the gauzy nostalgia for Jim Carrey characters with exaggerated underbites, over the cacophony of tinks as my cherished childhood gaming memories exploded in a shower of golden rings: My kids are going to love this movie.
This Week In Heat Vision breakdown
Right now things are pretty good in the Keeley household. Both my daughters are entering month two of their obsession with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, an endlessly rewatchable masterpiece. I've probably seen at least portions of the film more than 50 times and I'm still not bored or annoyed (though I do have questions, like how did Gwen enroll in Visions Academy so fast? Is that really all the apartment Aaron could afford on a supervillain's salary?). But Spider-Verse is a rare respite, a diamond ring lodged in the vast subterranean fatberg of children's programming, and things can take a turn at any moment. An errant Netflix thumbnail can doom my wife and me to an equally long period of, say, this.
It's a never-ending battle, therefore, just to steer my kids toward slightly more tolerable content. Anything where the female characters are constantly — even in gym class — wearing 18-inch stilettos is an automatic no. Anything with sentient, rapping cars, also a no. (Sonic does not appear to, ahem, run afoul of either criterion.) Other than that it's kind of like, "OK fine, let's hit play and hope for the best."
In order to preserve my sanity, then, it is important that I adopt the most sanguine view of projects like this. And what is my sanguine view of Sonic the Hedgehog, the live-action movie, now that my own judgment has been subsumed and replaced by that of my children, whose tastes dictate the viewing habits of our household between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.?
It's fine. Maybe even cool?
There's the part in the trailer where Sonic is standing on a roof and picks his way through hundreds of missiles and hey, you know, that looks pretty sweet if you ask me. The effects don't look cheap. Robotnik's gadgets look pretty badass. Jim Carrey appears to be having fun. James Marsden has proven himself a capable comedic actor. I like Ben Schwartz. Yeah, Sonic looks like a weirdo, but when Hollywood tries translating an anthropomorphized cartoon animal to live-action it usually fails, right? Is this worse than Mike Myers' Cat in the Hat? It is not. (Also, minutes before I submitted this to my editor, Jeff Fowler, director of the Sonic movie, went on Twitter to say he saw the memes, and changes to the character design are "going to happen." So we'll see how that goes.)
In preparation for this opinion-editorial, I texted my wife the link to the Sonic trailer and asked her to show it to my oldest daughter, who is 5. If she were creeped out by Sonic, went my reasoning, I could save myself some work. But my wife texted back saying she'd gathered a small audience on the preschool playground and the video was "enthusiastically received" by all. This was not surprising.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a movie for children because it will reap the majority of its box office and home entertainment revenue based on the interest and enthusiasm of children, not of gamers who grew up in the console wars era. Most kids have absolutely zero connection to this character. They didn't excitedly plunk down a deposit on the first Sonic game at KB Toys. They haven't absent-mindedly hummed the Green Hill Zone theme for three decades. They didn't surreptitiously buy a "Chronic the Hemp Hog" novelty shirt from Spencer's Gifts to see if their seventh grade teachers would say anything (they didn't, amazingly). Most don't even know what Sonic looks like!
More appositely, they do not know what he's supposed to look like. In aggregate, they are not likely to be disappointed by the prospect of a big-budget feature centered on a giant blue "stuffie" who cracks wise and has superspeed, no matter how human his teeth.
Parents, resign yourselves. Pre-order the Blu-ray and be thankful no one is currently trying to make a live-action movie version of Earthworm Jim.
Pete Keeley is THR.com's copy chief. This is his second editorial on being a dad whose kids watch movies.
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