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Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Review

April 8, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Image Credit: Paramount Pictures/Sega
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Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Review  

Directed By: Jeff Fowler
Written By: Pat Casey, Josh Miller and John Whittington; Based on the SEGA video games and characters
Runtime: 122 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG for action, some violence, rude humor, and mild language

Ben Schwartz – Sonic the Hedgehog
Colleen O’Shaughnessey – Miles “Tails” Prower
Idris Elba – Knuckles
Jim Carrey – Dr. Ivo “Eggman” Robontik
James Marsden – Tom Wachowski
Tika Sumpter – Maddie Wachowski
Natasha Rothwell – Rachel
Adam Pally – Wade Whipple
Lee Majdoub – Agent Stone
Shemar Moore – Randall
Tom Butler – Commander Walters

The Blue Blur returns to the big screen in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The Hall of Fame icon had a rather auspicious big-screen debut with his first film released in 2020. The film was a sleeper hit and hailed as a major success story, thanks in large part to the production taking overwhelmingly negative feedback into account for the initial trailer, where Sonic’s horrific original design was widely maligned. Paramount opted to delay the film to update Sonic’s design to appear similar to the games which arguably saved the picture and earned goodwill with longtime fans and audiences.

The original Sonic movie was not a masterpiece. However, since most live-action films based on video game properties tend to be execrable dumpster fires, Sonic the Hedgehog looked like the Citizen Kane of video game movies in comparison. Now, Sonic gets another shot with Sonic the Hedgehog 2, featuring more of his iconic supporting cast members along for the ride with Tails and Knuckles.

Continuing an undetermined amount of time after the first movie, Sonic (Schwartz) is still living as an adopted child of sorts with Green Hills Sheriff Tom Wachowski (Marsden) and his veterinarian wife Maddie (Sumpter). Hoping to use his powers for good, Sonic has taken to fighting crime in his spare time, with fairly mixed results. After Tom and Maddie go on an excursion to Hawaii to attend the wedding of Maddie’s sister, Rachel (Rothwell), Sonic’s unsupervised revelry is interrupted by the return of the nefarious Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Carrey). Dr. Robotnik was able to escape from his exile on the Mushroom Planet thanks to the interdimensional appearance of an alien anthropomorphic Echidna warrior, Knuckles (Elba).

Robotnik has manipulated Knuckles into believing that Sonic is his enemy and that Sonic holds the secrets to a great power that was protected by Knuckles’ tribe. Of course, Robotnik wants that power for himself. Sonic is assisted by the arrival of another helpful sentient alien creature, the aptly named fox, Miles “Tails” Prower (O’Shaughnessey), a genius inventor who discovered Sonic’s exploits from across the universe and idolizes him. Together the pair must combine efforts to uncover the secret power and stop Robotnik.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a much better film and an improvement over the original. The original film did well in realizing a version of a living CG-animated Sonic character in a live-action setting, along with Jim Carrey’s best, most entertaining performance in years. Filmmaker Jeff Fowler leans heavily on what worked in the first film and expands upon the world by adding in more of the classic characters from the Sonic video game franchise.

Tails and Knuckles are welcome additions to the story. They both look like they jumped right out of the games and have unique dynamics with Sonic. The Tails and Sonic relationship is nice because Sonic now has a younger sibling to look after, a little kid who worships him. Knuckles has been duped into believing Sonic is his enemy, but Knuckles is given a solid backstory with an interesting connection to Sonic’s past.

The other great thing about Tails and Knuckles is that they are fully realized characters. There are multiple scenes in Sonic 2 where the CG-animated characters are the only ones on screen interacting with each other; and frankly, they are the most heartfelt and genuine scenes in the film. Jeff Fowler wisely avoids making the Sonic characters nothing more than farting special effects gimmicks. They are sincere, charming, and emotional characters.

What’s odd is that this film grinds to a halt with the human characters who look and act zanier and more like cartoon caricatures than their CG-animated counterparts. When the plot of Sonic 2 deviates to Tom, Maddie, and Rachel at the wedding, the narrative is at its weakest.

What both Sonic the Hedgehog movies have in common is an issue with the tone. When it switches to comedy, it tends to resemble, juvenile, lowest common denominator high jinks. These high jinks more closely resemble Michael Bay’s Transformers, the live-action Alvin and the Chipmunks, or live-action Scooby-Doo films. It’s like the comedic subplots were recycled from leftover, unused drafts from sequels to those films. Yes, youth and children are a large segment of this film’s audience, but it feels like in these moments, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 unnecessarily resorts to lowbrow humor.

However, when the focus switches to Sonic and Tails and their adventure against Robotnik and Knuckles, the film greatly excels. When Sonic and Tails tell jokes, or when Carrey hams it up as Robotnik, the humor works better because it’s coming from a natural place based on the characters and their situations.

Idris Elba’s performance works very well as Knuckles because he takes everything so seriously. Knuckles is so serious and is not familiar with Earth culture or devices, so a natural sense of humor ensues; yet it does not undercut the serious nature that Knuckles represents.

Jim Carrey is doing his own thing as Dr. Robotnik. He does not resemble any past iteration of Robotnik. Carrey is so dedicated to how manic and demented Robotnik is, and Robotnik’s extended stay on the Mushroom planet has only dialed up his lunacy. This is where the humor and comedy for Sonic 2 appropriately works.

Elsewhere, the film incorporates a significant number of original backstories from the classic Sonic video games into the plot. The result is that Sonic 2 is one of the more faithful video game adaptations in recent memory. The old Sonic video games were not plot-heavy either, but it’s clear from this film that Fowler loves those games and pays homage to them. Elements from the second and third Sonic games are worked into the plot in a strong, satisfying way. It’s proof that these characters can work in movies if the effort and vision are there.

However, the wedding subplot is where the film starts to drag. This is a much longer film than the first one, but the ridiculous human scenes seriously hamper what could have been a better film. Even worse, the wedding subplot just grows bigger and wilder, taking ridiculous tangents. It simply could have just been a way to get Tom and Maddie away from Sonic for most of the film. When the reason behind the wedding becomes clear, the contrived way it comes together is absolute nonsense. Then, the drivel with the humans continues, exemplifying the difference between making a good Sonic film and a great one.

Also, something still seems to be missing from these films in terms of the music. There are a couple of Easter eggs that pay homage to the classic music from the games, but it does not take that extra step. The music for Sonic the Hedgehog game series is iconic, and it should be incorporated into the film’s score. Instead, most of the music score by Junkie XL is merely serviceable background fare or pop song needle drops. It does not drive the excitement like hearing a big cinematic version of the Sonic theme would do.

Jeff Fowler’s direction has good energy. The action sequences look great. He showcases the abilities of Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles splendidly well. Some of the set-pieces look like live-action realizations of classic video game stages. There is one scene in particular where characters rush through an elaborate labyrinth filled with traps that is one part Indiana Jones and another part a classic Sonic gaming stage. These sequences look amazing onscreen, and they are competently edited and shot. Action scenes where the action is viewable and does not induce vomiting or motion is a lost art these days.

Future Sonic the Hedgehog films would do well focusing more on the core Sonic animal characters and less on the humans. The filmmakers have proven they can nail those parts, while with the exception of Robotnik, the films dip in quality with the human cast. They should also consider taking the plot off-planet. Since Sonic’s relationship with Tom and Maddie is like that of an adopted child, if Sonic takes his fight or adventure elsewhere, he can be portrayed as a kid growing older and going off to college.

Overall, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a positive step. If future installments can just take those few extra steps of emphasizing the film series’ strengths and dialing down the weaknesses in tone, the franchise could be in business.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is an enjoyable film that exceeds the original, thanks in large part to the great additions of Tails, Knuckles, and a much more interesting, action-packed adventure for Sonic and his friends. When the film focuses on Sonic's unfolding adventure, the plot is strong and dialed in, but the film loses momentum when it switches off to the moronic human characters. Regardless, it's nice to see a film based on a video game that, for once, knows what it's doing and to see such iconic characters looking utterly fantastic in a big-screen adventure.