‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ is Awfully Silly, And That’s Okay

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CREDIT: Paramount Pictures and Sega of America

Starring: Ben Schwartz, James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Adam Pally, Lee Majdoub, Natasha Rothwell, Frank C. Turner, Neal McDonough

Director: Jeff Fowler

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rating: PG for Hedgehog Mischief and Mad Scientist Arrogance

Release Date: February 14, 2020

Sonic the blue video game character and Sonic the drive-in fast food chain are very different, insofar as running around loop-de-loops really fast is advisable with only one of them. But they are also similar, insofar as they are both fine and enduring examples of lowbrow culture. So the release of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie raises the question: is this a good flick to watch while chowing down on some burgers and tots? I would have to definitively say yes, and thus I am awarding the Jeff Fowler-directed Sonic the Hedgehog the first (and perhaps also last) ever Sonic Feast Stamp of Approval.

Remember that hullabaloo about Sonic’s CGI teeth needing to be reanimated to something less uncanny valley-ish after the first trailer was released? It turns out that job was taken care of thoroughly and that snafu will henceforth only be a footnote in cinematic history! Thus, we are all able to fully focus on our spiny friend’s hairy adventures. Not that we need to focus too much to understand what’s going on, as the plot follows a standard formula for kid-friendly video game creature adaptations. Sonic, voiced mostly amusingly by comedian Ben Schwartz, gets magically transported to the world of humans where he strikes up an unlikely friendship with Tom (James Marsden), a small-town guy with big-town ambitions, and runs afoul of his nemesis, Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), whose physical presence is more Earthbound than his typical video game iteration though his personality is full-on cartoonish.

Anyway, Sonic loses his bag of gold coins that he uses to transport between worlds, so he wrangles Tom in for a road trip to go find them, even though with his supersonic capabilities, he could probably do it himself in a matter of minutes. It doesn’t matter. It’s all just an excuse for Sonic to get up to shenanigans like causing a ruckus in a biker bar as Schwartz vamps, Carrey mustache-twirls, and the Olive Garden jams its way in there with some stealthy product placement. Also, Natasha Rothwell is on standby as Tom’s sister-in-law for some inexplicable running gag in which she keeps telling his wife to divorce him. It’s bright and colorful and silly, and frankly, I’m glad we live in a world in which doofy video game adaptations can still get made.

Sonic the Hedgehog is Recommended If You Like: The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, Batman Forever, The Smurfs

Grade: 2.75 out of 5 Loop-De-Loops

This Is a Movie Review: The Naughty Nuns of ‘The Little Hours’ are Raunchy and Sweet

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in June 2017.

Starring: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen

Director: Jeff Baena

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: R for Naked Witchcraft Acid Trips

Release Date: June 30, 2017 (Limited)

Fred Armisen shows up as a visiting bishop about halfway through The Little Hours. It is a hilarious scene, but it encapsulates the trepidation I had upon viewing this flick. In writer/director Jeff Baena’s riff on one of the tales from 14th-century story collection The Decameron, things are getting wild and crazy at a convent, with a trio of central nuns (Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Kate Micucci) getting into sex, witchcraft, and other debauchery. While the premise alone is worth several chuckles, I had worried that it was better suited to a sketch rather than a full feature length, and Armisen’s routine demonstrates exactly what I was thinking of.

As Bishop Bartolomeo, Armisen takes stock of all the sinning that the residents have been getting up to, and it is a potent mix of petty, mundane, and outrageous. Running down kooky lists and taking a few breaks for exasperation is one of Armisen’s specialties. He revels in a litany that includes envy, “being a busy body,” “eating blood,” and “not being baptized.” This recaps everything important that has happened thus far and if this scene had been an SNL sketch (easily imaginable, considering the cast), our imaginations would just fill in the visuals for all that outrageousness. Instead, we get to see all the vulgarity play out, which could be a recipe for exhaustion after ninety minutes, but The Little Hours has some grounding elements to make the whole course palatable.

The focus is on three young brides of Christ – Alessandra (Brie), Fernanda (Plaza), and Genevra (Plaza) – who are either seeking to escape the convent or happy to stay there but not really interested in living the religious life properly. This would all be just a mélange of nuns behaving badly if not for the appearance of runaway servant Massetto (Dave Franco), who strikes up a romance with Alessandra and a deal with the head priest (John C. Reilly) to keep his true nature a secret. The love story is kinda sweet and Reilly is always so invested in the material no matter how ridiculous, elements that help offset all the debauchery, which is fitfully amusing but could have been exhausting if not for these counterpoints. Besides, this film cannot coast on shock value when its ladies do not bother one iota to resemble actual nuns.

The Little Hours is Recommended If You Like: History of the World: Part 1, The sexier scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The To Do List

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Rolls in the Hay