Speed and brawn collide in fun but uninspired Sonic the Hedgehog 2
There are some properties where a rabid fandom can be expected, including any Marvel or DC movie, Star Wars, and the like. But you wouldn’t necessarily expect the same level of enthusiasm for a character from a videogame franchise, even one that has existed across multiple consoles for almost the past 30 years.
And yet the response from the crowd at this critic’s screening to Sonic and other characters from the game in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 prove that Sega Sammy Studios and Paramount Pictures were right to bring the franchise to the big screen in 2020. The first film wound up making over $350 million worldwide, and it might have been more if the pandemic hadn’t hit a month later.
Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is back to his usual antics after banishing the evil Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to a mushroom planet at the end of the last movie. Still living with Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter) in Montana, Sonic has taken to thwarting criminals in far-off places like Seattle, quickly returning home after a night’s work. His crime-fighting ways are put on pause, however, when Dr. Robotnik figures out a way to return to Earth with the help of an echidna named Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba).
They’re on the hunt for the Master Emerald, a legendary jewel that brings great power to whomever possesses it. Naturally, Sonic must try to stop them, and this time he has help from Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessy), a fox from Sonic’s planet who can fly using her dual tail. Their adventures take them around the world, from Montana to Siberia to Hawaii, with a few surprises thrown in along the way.
Made once again by director Jeff Fowler and writers Pat Casey, Josh Miller, and newcomer John Whittington, the film is a nice mix between stuff aimed at kids, parts that adults will appreciate, and elements to get the fans cheering. The inclusion of two more animated characters – and Carrey, who’s essentially an animated character – brings a lot more silliness into play, although they still keep the eye-rolling jokes to a minimum.
Tom and Maddie travel to Hawaii – via one of Sonic’s rings, natch – for the wedding of Maddie’s sister, Rachel (Natasha Rothwell), and even though the subplot is in service to Sonic’s story, they still throw in a couple more mature aspects to keep things interesting for parents. But the film’s final act is really for the superfans who know all about the Master Emerald and what it can do; the residual excitement from certain moments is infectious, even if you’re not exactly sure why they’re so thrilled.
The filmmakers don’t try to reinvent the wheel for the second film, something that both helps and hurts them. They utilize a couple more slo-mo scenes where Sonic is moving at regular speed while everything else essentially stands still. There are only two ways in which you can only depict how fast he is, so it’s hard to fault them for going back to the well with that joke. But the lack of any new innovation for this film is a bad sign for the continued success of the series.
All of the actors returning from the first film repeat their fun performances, indicating that they were cast well. Elba is a nice choice for the brawny Knuckles, although it’s even better that they cast O’Shaughnessy as Tails, since she’s voiced the character in video games and on TV since 2014.
It’s rare that a movie based on a video game gets more than one bite at the apple, and even rarer that they turn out as well as the Sonic films have. Here’s hoping that as the series continues – and the end credits confirm that it will – the filmmakers keep all factions of the audience in mind to keep things equally entertaining.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 opens in theaters on April 8.