Now on Amazon Prime Video, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 reunites pretty much the same creative team from the hit first movie. “And then some?”, you may ask, and yes, there’s more, because the general idea of quantity reduction just isn’t something most movie sequels do. So we’ve got 23 more minutes of movie and a few more characters added to the pile, none more notable than Knuckles the Echidna, voiced by Idris Elba. Will the man who played Stringer Bell and Nelson Mandela, bringing audio life to a spiky-fisted red cartoon thing from outer space, bring this burgeoning film franchise – one of the better video game adaptations, although that’s not saying much, is it? – some heft and gravitas? You surely already know the answer to that question.
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: THE MUSHROOM PLANET, 243 DAYS SINCE THE EVENTS OF THE PREVIOUS MOVIE: Evil son of a frog Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) is stuck in “portabello purgatory” on this godforsaken orb, making Cast Away references and saying things like, “The question is, for whom am I narrating this?” As you’ll recall from the mid-credits sequence in Sonic 1, he possesses Sonic’s quill, which allows him to open a portal, and then he says “Klaatu barada nikto,” which is a The Day the Earth Stood Still reference, or a reference of Star Wars referencing The Day the Earth Stood Still, or a reference Army of Darkness referencing Star Wars referencing The Day the Earth Stood Still. Point being, Robotnik’s outta there, and also, the adults forced to watch this movie with their children might also be somewhat amused by all this.
Back on Earth, specifically Seattle, Sonic (voice of Ben Schwartz) Spider-mans around the city, busting up crimes, causing havoc and saying borderline-naughty things like “Holy sherbet!” as Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky” pumps on the soundtrack. He’s supposed to be keeping a low profile, but wants to use his speedy powers to do good things, but don’t put a lot of stock in this piece of the plot, because by the end of the movie, you’ll have pretty much forgotten this scene exists. He lives in rural Oregon with his parent figures, local cop dork Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Tom and Maddie have to go to Hawaii for her sister’s (Natasha Rothwell) wedding, and Sonic can just toss up one of his rings and warp them there, saving them the trouble of one of life’s greatest hardships, airplane travel. We then get a few scenes of junk happening in the build-up to the wedding, which surely fascinates all the children watching this, although I can report that Sonic and the rest of the cartoons, living and animated, will eventually end up in Hawaii, violently destroying things.
But I’m getting ahead of things – there’s more ridiculousness to summarize first. Robotnik teams up with Sonic’s rival, humorless bruiser Knuckles the Echidna (Elba), on a quest to find the Master Emerald, which is like One Gem To Rule Them All. Sonic’s gotta stop ’em, and gets help from Tails (voice of Colleen O’Shaughnessey), a cute li’l fox who can helicopter through the air with his two tails. They end up in Siberia, where they participate in a dance-off and Sonic makes a Magic Mike reference. They have to find a thing to find a thing to find the Master Emerald, because that’s how these things always work, although I may be missing a thing or adding an extra thing – I didn’t keep track, because life is too short to be fussy about such things. Anyway, around about here is when they end up destroying stuff in Hawaii, where there’s a big chunk of narrative about Maddie’s sister being royally honked off that her wedding was rendered rubble by strange CGI alien critters. There’s a Raiders of the Lost Ark bit and all manner of puns, as well as scads of action that Sonic might be able to resolve if he ran reallyreallyreally fast, but he doesn’t for some reason. Logic is not this movie’s strong point; nor yours, if you’re older than 12 and watching this.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: If you really stretch it, the screenplay also makes a The Straight Story reference. Otherwise, Sonic : Hitman :: Sonic 2 : Hitman: Agent 47. Which is to say, sequel ain’t as good as the first.
Performance Worth Watching: Carrey’s Robotnik shtick is still admirably unhinged (as unhinged as it can be in a kid flick, anyway), but after the first movie, he’s merely fulfilling expectations, not exceeding them. So the real surprise here is Natasha Rothwell, who dredges up the movie’s best laughs in scenes that not only could’ve been edited out, but probably didn’t need to be written in the first place. Savor that luscious ironic conundrum!
Memorable Dialogue: Robotnik gets meta-political: “There were good people on both sides.”
Sex and Skin: There’s a bit here in which Sonic repeatedly declares, “I’m the groin!” but it’s only in reference to one’s groin being kicked, punched or otherwise substantially injured.
Our Take: The first Sonic was about a lot of the usual stuff – the need to be accepted, forming a makeshift family, etc. – but at least it was about something substantive. This sequel is just mayhem slathered atop deeper establishment of intellectual property with the occasional conspicuous center-frame focus on a logo for a prominent brand of sandwich cookie. Young people and nostalgists will appreciate the integration of characters and plot developments/arcs cribbed from the video games, although, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t an Angry Bride Gets Her Revenge side quest anywhere in the Sonic canon.
I can’t say Sonic 2 is particularly good, but you have to appreciate its energy and effort: It eclipses the two-hour mark, but still moves at a decent clip, and is jam-packed with jokes. Not all of them hit, and they range from pop-cultural elbow-nudgers to on-the-cusp-of-PG-13 fodder to outright random-ass jabberwockical nonsense, but hey, this is how corporate product manufacturers engineer content for, as they say, CHILDREN OF ALL AGES EXCLAMATION POINT. Of course, my seven-year-old giggled and generally reacted in an upbeat manner to all this, then played his Sonic video game and probably wanted to buy another one, so this movie is surely a rousing success in that it’s all but guaranteed to entertain young people at the same time it markets products to them. Which makes it different from other youth entertainment how, you may ask? It didn’t make his parents doze off or squelch an overwhelming desire to leave the room, which is not nothing.
Special mention should go to Carrey – the VIP of Sonic 1 and the biggest reason it teetered the Tomatometer to the fresh end of the critical spectrum – who continues to be an exquisitely distinctive maniac in these movies. Notably, Robotnik now boasts a freshly out-of-control mustache, which is like Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot mustache (which enjoyed one hell of an origin story in Death on the Nile!) if it got thrust in a light socket. We’ve had Freddy vs. Jason, Alien vs. Predator, Godzilla vs. Kong and Ecks vs. Sever, why not Robotnik vs. Poirot? It’d be the crossover of the century, guaranteed.
— Decider (@decider) May 25, 2022
Our Call: I dunno man, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 isn’t dreary. It’s sort of fun, but plasticky and empty and not as “good” as the first, which barely got a pass from me. SKIP IT unless you feel a strong compulsion to fire this thing up for whatever reason, I don’t care, I’ve already put more thought into it than it deserves.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.