The video game character of Sonic the Hedgehog returns for a slightly better sequel. It’s a better film mostly for what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t make as much embarrassing product placement and it doesn’t feature as many dated gags.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is also not a great film for what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t really provide a more appealing adventure beyond all the familiar tropes. It also doesn’t really have any bits that protrude out of the family-friendly writing mode of passive pop culture pilfering.
What you ultimately get is a film that will please kids and fans of the games but on a surface level. I recall noting that Robotnik’s secret base is a coffee shop called Mean Bean. I got the reference to the game Doctor Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine but didn’t feel anything at such a nostalgia tap.
Sonic the Cocky Hedgehog
The best thing I can say about this film is there’s a better arc for Sonic the Hedgehog. There’s no road trip movie this time as Sonic (voiced again by Ben Schwartz) now has to become a hero. Well, okay, a BETTER hero.
The property damage he caused in California is no longer shrugged off. Sonic’s roommate Tom (James Marsden) brings up how Sonic needs to consider the damage he is doing and take more responsibly. Put simply, Sonic needs to grow up.
Finding the MacGuffin
A chance to prove himself comes when Sonic discovers that Earth is home to Chaos Emerald, a source of untold power. He needs to find it and make sure such power doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. A little help from a hologram of his late owl mother once again provides exposition as the one-scene herald.
Also searching for the emerald is Tails (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey), a talking fox alien who can fly with his dual tails. Tails is apparently a huge fan of Sonic even though they’ve only just met each other in this movie. With Tails looking up to the blue hedgehog, our titular hero needs to take responsibility for someone who wants to champion and help him.
Jim Carrey as Doctor Robotnik
Of course, the film’s previous villain of Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) returns in all his energetic and hammed up glory in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. He’s able to escape his prison of a planet when he makes contact with the red echidna Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba). They share a mutual goal of killing hedgehogs and attaining emeralds.
While Robotnik’s many pop-culture zingers that come faster than Sonic, Knuckles is the real stand-out here. He’s very much the fish-out-of-water villain who could easily be turned into an ally. This leads to some of the funniest bits of his misinterpretations of the world, made all the more comical by Elba’s straight line delivery.
Sonic the Hedgehog Is An Average Adventure
Where the film becomes mundane is when it pushes out by-the-numbers tropes of the adventure genre. You’ve got your standard temple that will crumble with a fight. You’ve got a deadly maze of traps with swinging blades and tumbling boulders.
Even the climax kinda feels par for the course with Robotnik attacking in his massive giant robot. There’s a slew of references thrown at the screen from various Sonic games during this climax. Outside of playing a game of spot the games, this final sequence plays out fairly predictably with action that is more passable than exciting.
An Odd Aside
Where the film gets weirdly intriguing is in the middle but more for its baffling nature. In order to give Tom something to do, he’s off attending the wedding of his wife’s (Tika Sumpter) sister Rachel’s (Natasha Rothwell) wedding in Hawaii. Sonic will eventually crash the event so he can borrow that red plain in the background so you’ll spot the Sonic 2 game reference.
What I didn’t expect is that this scene turns into a secret military operation to capture the hedgehog. By this point in the picture, Rachel practically takes over the film for her mini-arc of getting revenge on being catfished into a wedding. If that sounds bizarre and out of left field, it’s because it is.
But, you know, who cares? This is actually a fairly funny sequence of Rachel going on the offensive by hijacking Tails’s weapons and guzzling champagne as she destroys her own wedding. No Sonic present but certainly some smiles and laughs.
Solid Special Effects
The devout Sega fans need not fret about demanding the studio go back and redo the visuals. The special effects here look fine. Tails looks really weird with his wide-eyed expression that leads to some unintentionally hilarious shots, but he does look like he does in the games.
Knuckles has that dynamic look which makes him both a threat and a good-looking tagalong for Sonic’s adventures. The compositing of all these CGI characters blends great with the stunts and destruction which follow them. That being said, you really do have to question how much live-action will be present in these movies when a third of the cast are completely CGI.
Perhaps it’s because Sonic as game character hasn’t done much for me since the 1990s, but the many references did little for me. In truth, they triggered a certain embarrassment for getting all of them. I recall some people behind me arguing they didn’t play the Green Hill Zone theme in the movie and I muttered under my breath that it’s in the film as Tom’s ringtone.
I don’t begrudge any fans who got giddy for having all their Sonic trivia showcased up on the big screen. Certainly a lot of kids appreciated these references, including a mid-credit cameo for another Sonic character that made the audience erupt in thunderous cheer more than anything else in the film.
Conclusion: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
I wasn’t really impressed with this sequel but I did enjoy myself slightly more than the last Sonic movie. It’s more tame than shameless with its commercialism and more standard than dated with its comedy. On that level, it’s fine as matinee entertainment.
Will Sonic fans who still consume all things Sonic love the movie? I think the mid-credit scene answered that question. For the adults who were either beyond the Sonic fandom or haven’t taken much interest since the character’s golden days of the console era, it’s a decent yet average family adventure picture.
Did you see Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in the theater? What did you think? Was it better or worse than the last movie? Let us know in the comments below.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will be playing in theaters on April 8th, 2022.