James Marsden has found his Garfield.
What do you do with a Prince Charming face? James Marsden has the wink, and a smile of a storybook character come to life. He is the golden age Hollywood ideal stuffed into one dynamo genetic package. Cue the choir of angels and the “humana humana” sound effect. He should have been Tom Cruise’s heir apparent, but in a modern era that values IP over star power, Marsden has wallowed along the sidelines. That needs to change.
Marsden’s next chance to breakthrough stardom comes from an unlikely source. According to Variety, Marsden will star in a live-action/CGI hybrid adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog. No word if he’ll simply play a bumbling human interacting with the speedways of the Green Hill Zone, or if he’ll voice the titular hero. Depending on what side of the video game he lands on, Sonic the Hedgehog could be a significant energetic boost to Marsden’s career.
First introduced in 1991 as the Sega Genesis’ answer to Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog quickly took root in adolescent imagination. The character has appeared in multiple sequels on various platforms, starred in his own animated series, and headlined the longest running comic book series based on a video game (from 1993 – present). The fanbase is rabid, and they’ve waited decades for a cinematic revelation.
A transition from game to film should not be as rocky as say Super Mario Bros. or Street Fighter, or even Tomb Raider. Sonic the Hedgehog has a simple, clear-cut, good vs. evil narrative suitable for adaptation. The diabolical Dr. Robotnik seeks to rule the world through the collection of Chaos Emeralds, and only the speedster blue hedgehog stands in his way.
The filmmakers simply need to follow in the footsteps of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, easier said than done. Don’t get caught like the DCEU. There is no need to twist the cartoonish into dark, gritty, and grim alter-egos. Don’t lose yourself in potential sequels that may never come to fruition. The MCU rules the moment because they embrace the wild nature of the source material.
Sonic the Hedgehog is that beautiful mixture of the weird and the earnest. We buy in because the world is utterly unapologetic. Mixing live-action with the cartoonish is a tricky endeavor, but as long as the creators do not overthink the simple joys they already possess, then we’ll get more Who Framed Roger Rabbit than those abominable Smurfs.
Marsden has led the X-Men and rescued Superman. He’s happily embraced his rom-com facade for cutie fair like 27 Dresses, but he’s also descended into horrific deconstructions of his pretty boy appeal for The Box and Straw Dogs. With those absurd good looks and preternatural charm, Marsden was born to tease the childhood fantasies of Enchanted.
The guy stepped right out of Walt Disney’s imagination to torture the psyche of the rest of us shlubs. In Enchanted, few actors have ever achieved such a synchronicity between persona and role. One could have easily walked away after reaching such a peak of perfection. A real terror must exist in even bothering to attempt another character. Yet…an actor must eat.
Contemplating where Marsden could fit in such a production is fascinating. They could easily, and cheaply insert him into the universe as a confused outsider human. He’s done that gig before in Hop. Hopefully, that’s not the case here. Let’s give him the shoes and make him the soul of Sonic.
Look to Bill Murray in Garfield. The man was a titan, but his transition from comedy monster of the 70s and 80s to the icon of today involved a tremendously rocky 90s. He bumped along from Quick Change to Larger than Life to The Man Who Knew Too Little. Wes Anderson scooped him out of the doldrums to reveal a dramatic powerhouse in Rushmore, but still not a box office draw. However, in possessing Jim Davis’ lasagna-loving layabout cat kept him alive for children. What sounded ridiculous at the outset resulted in a stunning encapsulation of Garfield’s DGAF disposition. Murray came through that thought-upon travesty a legend.
Sonic could do that for Marsden. He is more than the Prince Charming face. He is an actor of heart. As Teddy of Westworld, Marsden represents perpetual hope. Keep your aim true, kid. Too bad the game is rigged. Add a little joy to his purpose, plus a fighting chance, and that’s Sonic. Strip Marsden of his good looks and the warmth and charisma will shine through.