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‘Parks and Recreation’ Actor Ben Schwartz is Sonic the Hedgehog

Schwartz is a voice acting wonder and makes for an uncannily perfect choice to play our favorite blue speedster.
Ben Schwartz Jean Ralphio Parks And Recreation
By  · Published on August 9th, 2018

Schwartz is a voice acting wonder and makes for an uncannily perfect choice to play our favorite blue speedster.

The Sonic the Hedgehog movie is sounding better by the minute. The contrast of having such a classic property handled by a distinctly modern producorial presence like Tim Miller’s got us tentatively intrigued at first. And yes, this is despite the fact that video game adaptations have mostly only existed to disappoint both long-time fans of those games and more casual cinema-goers alike.

But dare I say Sonic the Hedgehog could really be the game-changer in this notoriously tricky subgenre? Because while it is truly difficult to predict when the first great video game adaptation will actually emerge from the rubble of missed marks, Paramount Pictures is doing a fantastic job casting Sonic the Hedgehog. We should be excited.

Of course, finding the right guy to play the eponymous hedgehog will make or break this movie. Sonic’s arch-rival, Doctor Eggman, is trying to take over the world one Chaos Emerald at a time. The studio managed to nab Jim Carrey for the role, and we need someone who can match his brand of idiosyncratic.

Whoever is charged with stopping Doctor Eggman’s oppressive regimes has to have the ability to convey a range of personality traits: earnestness, optimism, self-confidence, carefreeness, and maybe even a little impatience. Don’t fret, though, because according to Variety, Paramount has landed on the perfect choice to play the part. Ben Schwartz, who is better known as Jean-Ralphio Saperstein in Parks and Recreation, will be voicing Sonic.

Casting Schwartz is honestly ingenious, firstly on account of his wide breadth of experience in the comedy field. Evidence of his charm and wit can be found in his recurring performances as Jean-Ralphio in Parks and Rec, even if fans of the show love to hate that character.

Jean-Ralphio is one of the most eccentric people to ever grace the NBC sitcom, but his cockiness actually ends up being totally endearing. His smugness is imbued with a playful edge, allowing the character to teeter between annoying and forgivable. It definitely helps that Jean-Ralphio is also hopelessly optimistic about practically anything in his life, in spite of his many failures at work and in his relationships. There’s something good-natured in this extreme caricature of a self-involved douchebag who never gets to win. That sincerity is ideal for Sonic.

For a more wholesome depiction of effervescence, though, look out for Schwartz’s voice work Disney XD’s 2017 reboot of DuckTales. In the show, Schwartz plays Dewey, the middle duck of the Huey, Dewey, and Louie trifecta. Like the original series, the DuckTales reboot tracks the escapades of the triplets as they embark on treasure-hunting adventures with their grand-uncle Scrooge McDuck. However, a key difference between Disney XD’s DuckTales and its 1987 counterpart rests in the fact that Huey, Dewey, and Louie are actually distinguishable from one another, personality-wise.

That’s wonderful news for Schwartz, who gets to portray Dewey as a stubborn, adventurous, and carefree brother in contrast to the natural born leader of Danny Pudi’s Huey and the mischievous troublemaker of Bobby Moynihan’s Louie. Comparably, Dewey is impulsive and brash, but also compassionate and ambitious. Schwartz is masterful at buoyantly youthful voice work and makes the character’s optimism and inherent curiosity really shine through.

In general, Schwartz has been killing the voice acting game as it is. His small-screen repertoire is incredible. Schwartz portrays Leonardo in Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and this new take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles utilizes his vibrant personality. In the realm of adult animation, Schwartz has most notably voiced various characters in Robot Chicken and played the vicious and grumpy agent Rutabaga Rabbitowitz in BoJack Horseman.

And as far as cinema is concerned, along with a role in DreamWorks’ Turbo, don’t forget that Schwartz is one half of BB-8 in the Star Wars sequels. He was credited as a “consultant” on The Force Awakens.

Sonic the Hedgehog is the optimal next step in Schwartz’s voice acting career, even if he still has to prove himself among established predecessors who are so well-known in the fandom. The influence of Ryan Drummond, Jason Griffith, and Roger Craig Smith will certainly not be forgotten, but if anything, Schwartz exhibits the talent necessary to make yet another classic product his own.

Initially, nostalgic casting choices like Carrey and James Marsden sealed Sonic the Hedgehog’s fate as a major avenue for a throwback: Carrey, due to his erstwhile reputation as a funny man, and Marsden, for the heart he delivers in all his performances.

However, nostalgia alone clearly won’t be propping up Sonic the Hedgehog, nor should it when there is burgeoning talent everywhere to breathe new life into this vibrant IP. Tika Sumpter is a soap opera veteran on the small screen. In movies, she frequents comedies like the Ride Along series and will star opposite the ineffaceable Tiffany Haddish in Nobody’s Fool, which is due out in November 2018. Sonic the Hedgehog marks the first project she’s done that utilizes animation of any kind, which marks a new and exhilarating experience for sure.

Schwartz seems to embody a little bit of the old and the new. He is distinctly modern as a public figure – a fixture in meme culture thanks to Parks and Rec and the many musings of Jean-Ralphio. But he has further made his mark rebooting classic content for fresh eyes. Schwartz is perfect for Sonic the Hedgehog, and definitely an actor to watch out for.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)