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Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Movie Review

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022) movie poster
Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Theatrical Release: April 8, 2022 / Running Time: 122 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Jeff Fowler

Writers: Pat Casey, Josh Miller (story & screenplay); John Whittington (screenplay)

Cast: James Marsden (Tom Wachowski), Ben Schwartz (voice of Sonic the Hedgehog), Tika Sumpter (Maddie Wachowski), Natasha Rothwell (Rachel), Adam Pally (Wade Whipple), Shemar Moore (Randall), Colleen O'Shaugnessey (voice of Miles "Tails" Prowler), Lee Madjoub (Stone), Idris Elba (voice of Knuckles the Echidna), Jim Carrey (Dr. Robotnik)

 

The makers of 2020's Sonic the Hedgehog had a mostly empty canvas to work with. The popular Sega video games on which the movie was based centered on a speedy blue anthropomorphic hedgehog who collected large golden rings and faced off against evil forces. Yes, there were also some animated television series from the '90s, but no one was expecting or demanding the filmmakers to stay true to that.
And why would they? The primary audience for the 2020 film was still about twenty years away from being born when those cartoons first aired and even further from conception when Sonic peaked in the early '90s as Sega's best-selling game franchise.

Weighing their options and modern moviegoer tastes, the makers of the Sonic movie seemed to draw their inspiration from the initially lucrative Alvin and the Chipmunks movies from a decade earlier. Wisecracking CGI characters interacting with human actors in a mixed-media comic adventure with a little more adventure than Alvin and company experienced in their music-making heyday. I was thoroughly unimpressed by Sonic, but the public seemed pretty content and thanks to the global pandemic, the February release became the box office runner-up of the asterisk-riddled 2020.

COVID seems to have done little to delay or derail the inevitable follow-up to this $320 million worldwide grosser and so Sonic the Hedgehog 2 opens tonight as we're still talking about COVID in the present tense, although far less than we had been. Sonic 2 ramps up both the comedy and the adventure, throwing a lot at the viewer with its unreasonable and ultimately excessive two-hour-plus running time.

Sonic the Hedgehog squares off with Knuckles the Echidna in "Sonic the Hedgehog 2."

We open on the Mushroom Planet, where Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), apparently better known as Eggman, is losing his mind sipping mushroom coffee in solitude. Eventually, the bald and absurdly mustachioed mad scientist gets some visitors, including Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba), a bigger, redder, more powerful echidna version of Sonic who was introduced in the third video game. Knuckles is determined to crush the blue whirlwind and Robotnik, consumed with the same task, reluctantly accepts him as a partner.

The two set course for Earth, where Sonic (voiced again by Ben Schwartz) is still a prized member of the Wachowski family. As his surrogate parents, sheriff Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter) head to Hawaii for Maddie's sister's (Nathasa Rothwell) island wedding, Sonic gets to stay behind and indulge in unsupervised shenanigans, basically more extreme versions of Kevin McCallister's initial indulgences in Home Alone. Sonic also has the ability to clean up the place even more quickly than Kevin did whilst also warding off the Wet Bandits.

But soon, an even bigger mess has befallen the Wachowski home, as Sonic is met by both the fierce, dead serious Knuckles and Tails (voiced by Colleen O'Shaughnessey), a clever fox who, thanks to his two propeller-like tails, can fly. Tails (introduced in the ultra popular 1992 Genesis video game of the same name as this film) gives Sonic a much-needed ally against Knuckles and Robotnik. This conflict drives a film much longer than it has any need to be.

Attributed to returning scribes Pat Casey and Josh Miller as well as new-to-the-team John Whittington (a writer on 2017's The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie), the screenplay manages to produce a few chuckles, but only out of inevitability due to the sheer volume of jokes written. Sonic never really makes sense as an actual character. He's kind of like a sugared-up eleven-year-old, but his wisecracks are far beyond the realm of such a real world menace. For example, the biggest laugh in the movie may be a reference to Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson's ongoing feud. At one point, Robotnik paraphrases a much-cited Donald Trump pullquote, which drew a hearty laugh from exactly one dad in my advanced screening's fairly crowded and enthusiastic theater.

Jim Carrey returns as the mustachioed mad scientist Dr. Robotnik, Sonic's principal villain.

As someone who as a kid played the games, specifically the second one, when they were new, I know I'm not the primary audience for this film without a kid of my own. But I strongly detest cutting family films slack on the basis that they're strictly for kids. The great family films that stand the test of time, from The Sandlot to E.T. to just about every Disney animated movie of the 1990s,
never settled for mediocrity because they're "for kids." The great family films of more modern times, from John Lasseter-era Pixar works and the two great Lego movies to Enchanted and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, do not talk down to children or assume they are uninterested in human emotions, complexity, creative storytelling, and nuance. These achievements are full of wit and imagination and excitement. Sonic 2, on the other hand, is full of explosions, barbs, needle drops, and winks.

Some more subversive and amusing humor is found at the edges of the production, little moments involving supporting characters played by Adam Pally and Lee Madjoub, comic actors who deserve better material and can only hope they'll benefit from exposure here. But obviously, a $90 million PG-rated sequel from franchise-hungry Paramount Pictures is not about to unfold with a parade of offbeat comic bits. Here, you settle for a couple of jokes about a display bagel and if you want more bagel-based content in your movies, you can go see the far more inventive and entertaining Everything Everywhere All at Once, expanding to nationwide release this very day.

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Reviewed April 7, 2022.



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