When the manic Dr Robotnik returns to Earth with a new ally, Knuckles the Echidna, Sonic and his new friend Tails is all that stands in their way. (from IMDB)
I think it's fair to say that no one expected much from the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie that released in 2020. Even after the movie was pushed back from November 2019 to February 2020 to allow for a complete redesign of Sonic's live action animated likeness, people still didn't expect much from the movie. Thankfully, Sonic the Hedgehog ended up being a fun buddy comedy for the whole family that actually made a good movie out of a video game -- something that is truly rare. And, even more surprisingly, the movie has held up with repeat viewings.
The inevitable - and welcomed - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 comes two years after the first one made a successful debut (just before the world went on lockdown), which also means that the sequel had to be filmed during the uncertainty of a "global pandemic." The end result is good continuation of the first film that takes great strides to avoid a retread of the first movie while trying to maintain some of the things that made the first outing so enjoyable.
The first Sonic ended with Jim Carrey's zany villain, Dr Robotnik, being banished to a mushroom planet. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 opens with the now-bald, bushy-mustached villain surviving on the planet, attempting to make his way back to Earth. When an encounter with another Sonic-like extraordinary creature named Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba) helps him reach home, he sets out to find an ultimate power source and hopefully defeat his blue hedgehog foe in the process. From the start, Carrey's Robotnik has more screentime, and as a fan of Carrey myself, I definitely loved this. However, it comes very much at the cost of sidelining Sonic's human friends, particularly James Marsden's Tom. His friendship with Tom is partly what makes the first Sonic as good as it is, and for Sonic 2, Marsden is pushed off to Hawaii to attend a wedding while the blue speedster is left vulnerable to a Robotnik attack at home. But the absence of human friends is probably largely an opportunity for Sonic to be introduced to new, yet more familiar, ones. The buddy aspect of the first movie is only repeated - sort of - in the form of the little dual-tailed fox, Tails, joining Sonic on his quest this time, with a bit of a role reversal--Tails being the fish out of water and Sonic being his hapless guide. It's the only ying to the yang from the first movie, but it doesn't have quite the same effect as Tom and Sonic's unlikely pairing the first time (Tails and Sonic even find themselves in trouble in a bar/pub again). Other than that, things are much different this time around--for better or worse. If you didn't think Robotnik was crazy enough in the first movie, his time of solitude on a mushroom planet proved to truly unhinge the guy for the sequel. I love a good zany Jim Carrey performance, but less of the jokes landed as well this time around (and lines like "Later, haters!" didn't work once, let alone twice here). Some of the humor seems aimed specifically at the youth of today, to the point where hearing trendy gags coming out of the mouth of a 90's comedic star like Carrey seems a bit odd. (And some of the pop culture references seem really forced - like the Vin Diesel / Rock feud, for example.)
For better or worse, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 takes bigger strides to align it with the video game world of Sonic. It's fun to see Knuckles and Tails enter Sonic's world, and to see Carrey's likeness of Dr Robotnik - and his gadgets and vehicles - begin to align more with the imagery video game fans are more used to. (I especially loved his bubble vehicle and a massive robot that had serious video game boss-level vibes). It's pure fun, and they're just some of the things that make Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as downright enjoyable as it is. And, I'd be remiss if I did not mention one of my favorite gags in the entire movie. Comedic actor Ben Schwartz, who voices Sonic in the movies, was probably most recognized for his manic role as Tom's crazy and irresponsible cousin, Jean-Ralphio on the show Parks and Recreation. So when Sonic - again, voiced by Ben - tells his canine companion that a certain movie is "The wooorrrssst" in the exact same sing-song-y fashion that Jean-Ralphio was known for, I found the meta Ben Schwartz gag to be a pure delight.
Aside from the lack of Sonic-and-Tom charm, a few other things held the movie back from being quite as good as the first one (even if, at times, this one may actually be a little more mindless fun). First of all, the movie is a good 20 or so minutes longer than the first installment, and unfortunately it feels it -- and not in a "more is more" fashion, sadly. The movie took the annoying-yet-mildly-amusing role of Tom's wife's sister Rachel's character from the first movie and makes that all-too-common big mistake of shoehorning them into a sequel with an expanded screen time (and she has all the on screen subtlty as a bull in the smallest of China shops). While Rachel having a wedding in this movie works as an excuse for a few other plot points, the movie comes to a screeching halt (I mean, really, you can practically smell the scorched rubber) to waste a bunch of time in Hawaii. A few chuckles may be found in this segment, but it's not enough to warrant the intrusion, and I couldn't help but wonder where the plot went and feel like the segment was pure fluff. Also, it feels like more jokes and attempts at humor miss the bullseye this time around - be it from Sonic or Robotnik (although, admittedly, I just really enjoyed Carrey's antics in general), but it isn't enough to totally torpedo the movie or anything.
The content is on par with the first movie, with just a couple subtly off-color jokes or play-on-word profanity choices. For example, when Robotnik is ready to get off the Mushroom Planet he'd been marooned on for over 200 days, he says he can't wait to get off this "piece of shiitake planet!" At one point, Rachel calls someone an "A-hole" (said just like that), there's an unfinished "son of a--," and there are a few uses of "Oh my G-d" and its variations, as well as one each of "h*ll" and "cr*p." There is mostly fantasy-style violence - nothing gruesome - but Robotnik's appearance may be scary to some younger viewers. When he returns to Earth, he blasts through a doorknob and breaks into Sonic's home, and it may be a bit creepy to some. Later, he is shown with a robotic voice, glowing green eyes, and lightning coming out of him that may scare some kids, too, but Carrey plays up the character with such silliness that it's likely to be disarming for how scary he may seem to the little ones (Honestly, while I found it all pretty funny and amusing, I could see myself being a bit scared if I'd seen this when I was little. The robot woman in Superman III definitely scarred me as a wee lad!). Aside from some salty and iffy language, the movie is otherwise a pretty family-friendly adventure. But you'll definitely want to keep the content in mind before taking the kids.
Hardly the best sequel you'll see, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is still a good, fun, and faithful sequel that complements the first movie without retreading too much of it. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 proves that this is a pretty fun franchise that just might have some staying power to warrant yet another installment or two before needing to retire back to Green Hills.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 4/12/22)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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