* The following contains spoilers for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” now in theaters. You have been warned. If you’re spoiling this movie for anyone who really wants to see it, might you be compelled to play the infamous “Sonic ’06” game. Or the game where Sonic becomes a werewolf/werewolf monster. Or the one where he’s a knight in medieval times for some reason? Man, what a weird series.*
“Sonic the Hedgehog 2″ is a family adventure involving giant robots, ancient interdimensional rivalries, and characters becoming almighty gods. It’s also an “Alvin and the Chipmunks” style brain cell killer where cute CGI mascots dance on “Uptown Funk”.
This mish-mash results in a game that kids and legions of fans of the “Sonic” video game franchise will likely enjoy, but it’s also tonally confusing, overly long, and at times painfully unfunny.
The first “Sonic” movie was something of a small miracle. Movies adapted from video games have an infamously poor track record, and fan reaction to the the horrifying design of the titular speedster in the film’s first trailer prompted the studio to push back its release date so that Sonic’s look could be revamped. Still, the movie shocked the world by somehow managing not to be a complete wreck.
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Of course, the basic idea was that a computer-generated creature was sucked into “the real world” and paired with a regular schmuck like the aforementioned “Alvin” series or the live-action “Smurf” duology, so people had every right to be skeptical. It seems Paramount Pictures wasn’t sure if audiences would bite for a direct adaptation of the games, where Sonic was in his own world of anthropomorphized animals for 90 minutes (plus, the animation isn’t cheap). So they set it in Montana and made it a buddy comedy, with only a few references to the games.
But for a production with a few scenes that were nothing more than commercials for Olive Garden, it was also quite charming, featured strong voice work from Ben Schwartz as Sonic and a lively performance from Jim Carrey as that villainous Dr. Robotnik and featured the blue blur. famous speed creatively. It could best be described as “pretty OK”. But it didn’t want people begging the Earth to swallow them whole so they didn’t have to endure the pain anymore, which meant it topped nearly every other video game in quality. Initially low expectations were exceeded and the film became a hit.
Since the first installment made money, the sequel wastes no time throwing out elements from the games. Robotnik has the giant mustache he is known for. The Emerald Master, one of the show’s main macguffins, has been a major contributor to the plot. Tails, Sonic’s best friend in the games, is a central figure here after appearing in the first movie’s post-credits sequence. He is voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey, a real-life comedienne who has portrayed the character in several “Sonic” projects, instead of being played by James Corden or another celebrity looking for a salary. And you can’t forget Knuckles the Echidna (voiced by Idris Elba), a major gaming figure who teams up with Robotnik in the film.
However, those who aren’t 30+ year old “Sonic” media enthusiasts shouldn’t worry too much about getting lost. All of these elements mesh well for the movie’s story, where Sonic and Tails team up to stop Robotnik and Knuckles from getting the Master Emerald. Personally, I’ve only played a few “Sonic” games, but I carried on with no problem. Anyone who’s ever seen a sci-fi/fantasy movie where a ragtag group goes in search of a doohickey with infinite power should be fine here.
The film’s greatest strength is in its world-building, embracing all of these other-dimensional characters, their dynamics, and their adventure together. Schwartz and O’Shaughnessey play each other well, even if the film tries to make Sonic or Tails instant best friends a little too immediately. Director Jeff Fowler, who also helmed the first movie, keeps the action sequences fun, though I personally think the original entry did a better job of giving you an idea of just how quick our main hero is.
Toby Ascher, a producer of “Sonic the hedgehog 2,” said in the film’s production notes that a “Sonic Cinematic Universe” is being established, and Paramount announced in February that a third outing in the franchise is already in development, as well as a Paramount+ streaming series centered on Knuckles, with Elba reprising the role. While the world hardly needs another interconnected hodgepodge of projects following in the footsteps of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s easy to tell by watching this entry that there’s an effort being made to make people care about this world and its mascots. If the goal is to create a video game-centric MCU-style juggernaut aimed at a slightly younger target market – and that absolutely seems to be the idea – then this is a decent swing for this concept.
Where the wheels fall off a bit, however, is each time the movie turns into a family comedy that’s no less concerned with entertaining children and adults alike, again in the vein of torture devices. “Alvin” and “Smurfs”. A lot of the jokes, especially in the first act, just don’t land. Schwartz’s delivery for Sonic’s lines makes you want to laugh, and at times his energy provides a few laughs despite the ho-him jokes – but the jokes he’s given often don’t match his effort. Carey plays a barrage of spitting takes that go on too long in the first game, and the names of Channing Tatum, Vin Diesel, the Rock and Mr. Monopoly are just not good substitutes for legitimate comedy.
Being a family-oriented movie doesn’t automatically mean it can’t give kids something entertaining and/or meaningful. Or at least do more than attack them with lone sloths. The first two “Shrek” movies or the majority of Pixar’s output, just to give examples from this century, are prime examples. Hell, 2019’s “Detective Pikachu,” another live-action/CGI hybrid based on a video game property aimed at a similar audience, didn’t drop so many embarrassing gags. I’m not going to claim that the first “Sonic” feature was a comedic masterpiece, because this one had its fair share of clunkers, but the laugh ratio was even higher than here.
Many vestiges of the first film remain, to the detriment of its sequel. Tom (James Mardsen), the cop who ended up battling Sonic, helped form the emotional core of the first movie – if he had an emotional core – but he and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) are left out of the picture. Sonic for most of the movie, naturally, in favor of the characters fans actually care about. But the pair still take up a lot of screen time with a plot that only marginally adds to the film’s themes of trust and working together and honestly could have been removed altogether.
It’s also worth noting that Carey seems to be phoning in her usual shtick here. While his Robotnik was still very clumsy in the first movie, there was still a character there. He was smart, clever, and you could tell that in every given scene, he immediately determined that every person he interacted with wasn’t worth his time. It was Shakespearean, but there was at least some character foundation. In this one, it’s just low-grade, rubbery-faced Carey stuff with no rhyme or reason.
Overall, the movie was at its best when it was trying to be an MCMU-lite, and even then it was fine, as it was assumed when it was becoming a mess.
What did you think of “Sonic the Hedgehog 2?” It was good ? Was it bad? Was I too nice or too tough? What kind do you think of alLet me on Twitter @KellyRocheleau!
Managing Editor Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.