Sonic the Hedgehog 2, 2022.
Directed by Jeff Fowler.
Starring Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, Idris Elba, Colleen O’Shaughnessey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Shemar Moore, Lee Majdoub, Tom Butler, and Elfina Luk.
When the manic Dr. Robotnik returns to Earth with a new ally, Knuckles the Echidna, Sonic and his new friend Tails are all that stand in their way.
It can take a good minute to sort out how Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is better and worse than its predecessor. However, if I were put on the spot and forced to rewatch one, I would confidently choose this.
Returning director Jeff Fowler (bringing back screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller, this time adding John Whittington to the mix) has tried shoving aside the human characters off into their own separate story while allowing Sonic (once again brought to life with hyperactive enthusiasm from the voice of Ben Schwartz) to interact with CGI additions Tails (a flying two-tailed fox, voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey, who has voiced the character in several Sonic video games), a steely but naïve new antagonist in Knuckles the Echidna (rather than grab a gaming voiceover counterpart, he is voiced by Idris Elba with brilliant comedic timing for selling fish out of water humor within that fighting personality), and a mustached Dr. Robotnik that Jim Carrey still dials up about five notches too quirky and irreverent, but nonetheless gives off a closer vibe to his digital counterpart (despite having some truly awful jokes to deliver, one of which referencing Limp Bizkit, and a Pantera musical number that’s confounding for adults to witness and will go over the heads of younger viewers).
Sometime after the first movie’s events (a major disappointment that came across more like your standard generic human/CGI animal road trip with cringe humor), Sonic has decided that he wants to use his abilities to be a superhero. The blue speed demon’s heart is in the right place, although his attempts to stop crime typically result in township destruction that endangers surrounding civilians. Sure, technically, Sonic saves the day, but his human companion Tom (James Marsden) tries to enlighten him that it’s not just about stopping the bad guys but accepting the responsibility to prioritize protecting others. It’s a valuable piece of wisdom to give the blossoming hero before he and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) head off to Hawaii for a wedding for her older sister Rachel (Natasha Rothwell), effectively removing them for around half the narrative.
Meanwhile, Knuckles locates Dr. Robotnik on the mushroom planet (where he was left for dead after being defeated in the first movie), offering a way to bring them back to Earth so long as they help each other. Knuckles wishes to find the all-powerful Master Emerald (hidden away on Earth by his and Sonic’s feuding ancestors). Dr. Robotnik agrees to search for so long as the echidna destroys the hedgehog. As seen in the post-credits stinger for Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails has also arrived on Earth to warn him of the new incoming dangers.
Admittedly, some of the comedy is the same annoying overactive hijinks as before (such as a sequence where Sonic makes a mess while looking after Tom’s home), but once he and Tails are introduced to one another, a sweet dynamic develops where the daredevil wannabe superhero must slowly encourage the easily frightened fox to be just as brave. With Dr. Robotnik and Knuckles on the attack, Sonic uses his own powers while realizing he can’t stop the villains alone this time, helping Tails discover his heroic abilities.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 also embraces action and blockbuster spectacle more (a no-brainer given the increased budget following the enormous success of its predecessor), a logical step forward that grants Jeff Fowler opportunities to play around with speed and peril and chaos (standout sequences involve characters running down ice mountains and engaging in battle, with markedly improved special effects that are pretty fantastic this time around).
That’s when it’s not freefalling in its second half, spending a baffling, unnecessary amount of time on the wedding mentioned above and ensuing hijinks. It’s as if the filmmakers were obligated to give the human characters a set amount of screen time, which only bloats the movie up to two hours when 20 minutes could easily be cut for a tighter viewing experience more in line with the aspects that do work. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 never fully recovers from such a fun-sucking blunder, but the depictions of these video game characters and moderately exciting set pieces are, by a hair, enough to overcome pointless human antics and some atrocious jokes.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is probably as good as a Sonic adaptation is going to get without abandoning human characters outright. There is another sequel teased, so considering the trade-offs in pros and cons here and the filmmakers seem to care, perhaps things will continue to improve over time with new entries. It’s just a shame the movie takes a hit and loses its rings at the start of the second half.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com