“Sonic the Hedgehog” surprised a lot of people in 2020 in terms of both quality and box office numbers. Based on the classic SEGA video game platformer, the movie had its flaws. But overall it was a fun and often funny family feature that earned nearly $320 million. A sequel was all but guaranteed and we got it earlier this year. As of today, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” has earned just over $400 million and now it’s available to stream on Paramount+.
Back is director Jeff Fowler along with screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller (they’re joined this time by John Whittington). Also returning is Ben Schwartz voicing the blue anthropomorphic hedgehog with lightning speed, James Marsden as small-town sheriff and Sonic’s adoptive father Tom Wachowski, and Jim Carrey, reprising his role as mad scientist Dr. Robotnik. The sequel includes a few more familiar faces (and voices) and a couple of new ones as well.
Despite mostly enjoying the first film, I wasn’t in a hurry to see “Sonic 2” (as evident by this late review). Call it lukewarm expectations. But to my surprise, the sequel turned out to be an entertaining romp and better than the first film in several areas. It doesn’t quite utilize its biggest strength (Carrey) the same way its predecessor did, but it has a few cool additions that brings new energy to the series.
The movie opens with the delightfully maniacal Dr. Robotnik marooned on The Mushroom planet (see the first movie or check out its Wiki) and plotting his revenge against Sonic. Of course first he’ll need to find a way off the world. He uses what tech he can salvage from his crashed hovercraft and the energy from one of Sonic’s quills (again, see the previous film) and sends out an intergalactic pulse. It attracts the attention of Knuckles (voiced by none other than Idris Elba), a red echidna warrior endowed with super strength. He turns out to be Robotnik‘s ticket off the planet.
Meanwhile on earth, Sonic is overanxious to put his powers to use, even not-so-secretly posing as a superhero he calls Blue Justice. But his guardian Tom pleads with him to be patient telling him that his time to be a hero will come. As it turns out Sonic doesn’t have to wait long.
While Tom and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) are attending a wedding in Hawaii, Robotnik and Knuckles arrive on earth. The honor-bound Knuckles, the last of his tribe, is after a powerful relic called the Master Emerald which grants its possessor the ability to turn thought into reality (Think of it as the “Sonic” franchise’s Infinity Gauntlet). Knuckles wants to honor his extinct tribe’s role as the relic’s protectors. Of course the diabolical Robotnik has far more sinister intentions. But watching from a distance is a flying two-tailed fox appropriately named Tails (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey) who has arrived on earth to warn Sonic of the looming threat.
Much like the first film, “Sonic 2” is as much a lighthearted comedy as it is a frolicsome action-adventure. It has plenty of funny bits, the best coming from Carrey who owns every goofy scene he’s in. But we also get some good laughs from Natasha Rothwell playing Maddie’s sister who hates Tom, and Lee Majdoub who plays Robotnik’s loyal servant Stone. They’re just some of the characters who fill out the story, most of whom are entertaining and fit well within the world.
But what I like most (and what separates it from so many of today’s animated features) is that the action never reaches an assaultive fever pitch. There’s plenty of it, but Fowler doesn’t go for the sensory overload. There some really good digital effects work and the blend of live-action and animation is practically seamless. And while I won’t spoil the climactic battle, I love how it took inspiration from certain Japanese Toho films.
Speaking of inspiration, “Sonic 2” features countless other nods to movies and pop culture. “Cast Away”, the “Indiana Jones” films, “Army of Darkness”, and “Poltergeist” just to name a few. There’s even a gag referencing the Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson feud. Toss in some good themes of friendship, responsibility, forgiveness, and family and you have a movie that will resonate in several ways with kids and adults.
Now I don’t want to oversell it. There are some lazy gags (will we ever get away from the fart jokes?) and certain segments of the story don’t really feel necessary. And the two-hour runtime may wear some viewers out. But I can’t lie, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” surprised me. I had fun with the characters, was impressed by the visuals, and enjoyed all the winks to other movies and genres. And perhaps most surprising – I’d be up for a third film. Just one request – more Jim Carrey please. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is available on VOD and is streaming on Paramount+.