Ever since Sonic the Hedgehog was released in theaters two years ago, I bet many of us still couldn’t believe it wasn’t the video game disaster we all expected it to be. Remember how terrible that first trailer was and went back and fixed Sonic’s entire look? What a time. I came out of it pretty surprised by the live-action film despite caring very little about it when it was first announced. Coming from someone whose knowledge of the property is limited from never playing any of the games from Sega or viewing the cartoons on tv, it managed to be a decently fun adaptation of the fast, blue creature. Many have failed, yet the first installment is still regarded as one of the better video game movies we’ve gotten. Seeing how it was only the second movie of 2020 to make over $100 million at the box office, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a guarantee for Paramount Pictures to make this the next family franchise for all.
Months after defeating Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) lives life in the town of Green Hill, Montana, and tries his hand at fighting crime at night. Unfortunately, his latest attempt to become a hero didn’t go well. However, he knows that he’s still a kid and that there will be a pivotal moment for him to use his powers. Everything for him seems to be out of trouble when Tom and Maddie (James Marsden and Tika Sumpter) are off to Hawaii to attend her sister’s wedding, leaving Sonic by himself at home for the first time. All the fun gets interrupted with the shock of discovering Robotnik has returned to Earth after living on the Mushroom Island, where he is helped by Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba), an anthropomorphic echidna, to find out where a jewel called the Master Emerald that can give anyone unlimited power. He’s quickly saved by Tails (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey), a yellow fox with two tails, thus jumping into an adventure for them to keep it out of Robotnik’s hands before the planet gets destroyed.
Was this the highly anticipated sequel I was dying to see all year? Of course, it wasn’t, but I was definitely curious, wondering if this would be better or worse than the first movie judging by the early reactions it’s been receiving. So, it isn’t too bad of a time as a follow-up. Director Jeff Fowler returns with screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller, alongside John Whittington, to put together a movie that not only fixes certain issues and improves them here. Where the first movie had a buddy comedy feel, I appreciate the focus is more on Sonic finding his purpose with what he’s meant to be. Nothing about this is needlessly complex to follow, but one that should never be taken seriously when you can tell its source material influences it significantly. It makes us want to plug in our Sega Genesis and play the classic games again. And when you have something that’s devoted entirely to families and video game players, it does an excellent job at what a Sonic movie should be doing, which is to entertain.
Two movies in, and you can’t hear anyone else doing better vocal performance as the titular Sonic than Ben Schwartz. He continues to be just the right fit that never came across as annoying for someone who’s a freakin’ fast/ chili dog-loving teenager. That charismatic charm with this character is carried over smoothly where it’s almost impossible to dislike him. But, seriously, can you even imagine if they continued with that nightmare-fueled design before? Jim Carrey reprises his role as the villainous scientist Robotnik, now with a crazy big mustache, which would be a massive highlight of the movie regardless of the results. Guess what? He’s excellent once again for how over-the-top his performance is throughout. Similar to why his comedic chops always worked brilliantly in the 90s, and kids watching him for the first time with these movies will instantly want to watch his comedy classics. He’s even crazier than the last time. But can you blame the guy for being stranded on a planet full of mushrooms? Please don’t retire early, Carrey.
Bringing new characters into the sequel was a bright idea because there’s never a problem with Sonic on the screen. Still, seeing some familiar faces everyone knows and love is already enough to boost up the energy. Idris Elba voicing Knuckles was perfect in my eyes and is downright a true standout for someone who I knew a little about going in. This guy with this tough guy persona attached to him and being fish-out-of-water when he’s on a planet he doesn’t know and not looked at as the most intelligent creature to be around. The humor around him surprised worked because of Elba’s delivery of his lines. What’s even better is we’re already getting a spin-off series focusing on him. Seeing Tails during the post-credit scene at the end of the last film definitely excited fans, and they won’t be disappointed. And I loved how they brought in O’Shaughnessey to voice Tails since she voiced him for eight years now in the video games. Some might think he was annoying, but I didn’t think so. There are some enjoyable scenes between Sonic and Tails where because the latter looks up to his hero, this quick friendship gives the movie a nice amount of heart. Also, the CGI for the non-human characters looked pretty cool, if not better.
The action set pieces were entertaining when we see Sonic using his quick speed or a killer fight between Sonic and Knuckles that can be straight out of the games. Most of the humor is directed at kids, especially the pop culture references that can get tiring after a while. The first half was funnier than later on. Though I think I was the only one who laughed when both Snow Dogs and Limp Bizkit, lame products of the early 2000s, were brought up. Even after thinking about it on the drive home, there wasn’t a point to really having a dance-off sequence with Sonic and Tails in a Siberian bar set to “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars when we all know dance numbers in these family movies feels so outdated and don’t necessarily drive the plot.
A few aspects of the movie didn’t work for me. Like what? There’s no reason this has a two hour and two-minute runtime compared to the original’s 99 minutes. It was fast-paced enough not to have me notice. At one point, I figured we were already at the climax since it felt like it, only to find out we were probably close to the 90-minute mark. And though it’s a blessing to spend much more time with Sonic here than before, the human characters still aren’t too interesting to care about whenever it cuts to them, besides Carrey. Marsen’s Tom and Sumpter’s Maddie are fine enough here than before. Still, anytime the story delves into the wedding subplot in Hawaii, you’re just waiting for it to add anything to the report, or you’re just waiting for any CGI character to come back on screen since it ultimately drags the plot down.
While Sonic the Hedgehog 2 isn’t the type of movie to be a heavy awards contender, it’s accomplished by delivering a satisfying sequel for hardcore fans. As to what I thought, I quite enjoyed it, almost considering a mild improvement over its predecessor. If you’re the kind of person who loves fun action, laughs, and will have a lasting impression with the introductions of Tails and Knuckles, respectively, this won’t be a problem. But I’ll say this: If you didn’t mind the original, you’re likely to feel the same way. Yet, if you didn’t care for it after leaving the theater, chances are this won’t change your mind upon reflection. And for those wondering, you bet there is a post-credit scene that will get fans excited for what’s to come ahead for a potential the third film.
Grade: (6/10) B-
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is now playing in theaters. Runtime: 122 Minutes. Studio: Paramount Pictures