Sonic the Hedgehog 2 rolls around at the speed of sound to the tune of messy but often fun results.
In practice, most video game movies don’t have to worry about sequels. The likes of Assassin’s Creed and Warcraft failed to make anywhere near enough money to justify follow-ups. But there are still theatrical video game movie sequels here and there, now including Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Director Jeff Fowler and company take a page from the stuffed, fan-service heavy vibes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Like that 2016 picture, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is desperate to please and piles on loud, formulaic, tiring comedy. And like Out of the Shadows, Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s deluge of energetic mayhem yields its share of fun and proves itself an appealing alternative to grimdark nonsense.
Not long after the first movie, Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is trying his best to use his super-speed skills to be a superhero, though he’s mostly making messes more than a positive impact. When his surrogate parents Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie Wachowski (Tika Sumpter) go to Hawaii for a wedding, Sonic’s life is thrown into (further) chaos with the sudden return of Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). The mustachioed evil genius isn’t alone—he’s joined forces with outer-space echidna Knuckles (Idris Elba), who has a longstanding grudge with the blue hedgehog hero.
Sonic, fortunately, won’t have to take on the crimson duo alone. Help comes in the form of Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey, who’s voiced Tails in the Sonic games since 2014) a two-tailed flying fox and Sonic fanboy. Together, the blue blur and the enthusiastic but unconfident fox will have to race the clock as Robotnik hunts for the powerful Master Emerald—hidden somewhere on Earth. Sonic’s best option in the face of such a threat? Go fast. Really, really, really fast.
Screenwriters John Whittington, Pat Casey, and Josh Miller (the latter returning from the original film) haven’t so much come up with a plot for Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as taken several different storylines and smashed them together. Sometimes the film is a buddy road trip movie with Sonic and Tails, other times it’s all about the human-centric shenanigans at the Hawaiian wedding. There’s even a brief detour in the third act into classic jungle adventure movies if Uncharted and The Lost City haven’t slaked your thirst for such tales this year.
The worst part of this kitchen-sink approach to the narrative is its disjointedness—especially in the middle of the second act when a whole new antagonistic force jumps into the fray seemingly just to pile on more tension. Similarly frustrating is how Tails gets lost in all the mayhem. Initially, he’s prominent in the story, but later he takes a backseat to Knuckles and Sonic’s interior emotional issues. At its weakest, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 treats Tails as so superfluous that he gets unconscious for an extended sequence with no impact on the story.
With that said, Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s dart-throwing does yield its share of rewards. It’s never a chore to sit through. And while the antics on-screen are sometimes derivative, (i.e., a dance-off between Sonic and Tails and a Russian set to “Uptown Funk”) they’re enjoyingly diverting in their ludicrousness, especially a mid-movie digression that gives Natasha Rothwell a chance to shine as supporting character Rachel.
It’s a bumpy ride between Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s exceedingly dissonant points, no question. But there’s fun to be had in seeing such polar opposite elements packed into one feature. Who’s going to complain about getting a showdown with a Robotnik Gundam and a wedding gone awry for the price of one movie ticket? Fowler and cinematographer Brandon Trost frame Sonic 2’s assorted tangents are framed with consistently bright lighting and pleasing colors. It’s a genuinely pleasing production pleasing to watch.
Much of the breezy atmosphere comes from an increased focus on Sonic and company compared to the first movie. The first film often felt ashamed about being about its source material, to the point that it bore more of a resemblance to Hop than any of the classic video games. This time around, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 hedges all its bets on its hedgehog, flying fox, and echidna shenanigans.
The greater emphasis on funny animals means there’s plenty of screentime for the feature’s MVP, Knuckles. Reimagined as Dave Bautista’s Drax the Destroyer but covered in red fur, Knuckles has a thirst for vengeance and honor but doesn’t know what a handshake is. It’s a fun reinterpretation of this character made all the better by Idris Elba’s voicework. He smartly plays Knuckles with 100% seriousness and no vocal mugging. This makes his delivery of ludicrous lines, like reading text conversations out loud, extra amusing. Elba’s often shown comic chops in his career and it’s good to see them utilized well here.
Less successful is the bizarre attempt to give both Tails and Knuckles traumatic backstories explaining their relationship with Sonic. As parodic as that sounds, it’s a major part of Sonic 2’s screenplay. Jim Carrey’s Robotnik, meanwhile, doesn’t benefit from the anything-goes nature of the production. Any potential moment of silence is undercut by a random comic line, facial expression, or instance of flossing. Carrey has swapped quality for quantity. It’s a miscalculation.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 shares its predecessor’s flaws, including outdated pop culture references and grating work from Carrey, and has a fair few of its own—chiefly an over-inflated 122-minute runtime. With that said, it’s a spryer take on the world’s favorite hedgehog/meme, one that while messy around the edges delivers solid excitement. Kids will love it, adult Sonic fans will go nuts for it, and the rest of us will find it a pleasant diversion. Maybe that’s all we should expect from a live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 opens in theaters on April 8th, 2022.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Trailer: