Two years after Sonic the Hedgehog surprised and impressed audiences with its blend of character-accurate CG (which couldn’t have been possible without the cry of outraged fans who were unlucky enough to catch the first trailer back in 2019) and witty humor, we get a sequel that seems to promise more Sonic adventure with the addition of two classic characters, yet upon further viewing becomes much of the same in terms of comedy and hi-jinks. I was one of those people who was not as impressed with the first Sonic, as it felt more like a mid-2000’s kids movie based on a cartoon a la Alvin and the Chipmunks or Smurfs (The latter in 2011, but still). Not even the presence of Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik was enough to save the experience. Cut to 2022, things seemed to have changed. Carrey sported a look more in line with the Dr. Robotnik we know and love, while the introduction of Miles “Tails” Prower and Knuckles the Echidna, and a plot involving chaos emeralds seemed to ensure a Sonic film worth seeing. While Sonic 2 improves on the adventure aspect, it seems held back by an attempt at being a family-comedy.
Sonic 2 picks up where the first film left off as we see Sonic (Voice of Ben Schwartz) living with his newfound family, Tom (James Marsden) and his wife, Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Yet being the rebellious teenager he is, Sonic spends his nights sneaking out of the attic he is staying in, and playing hero, where he attempts to stop robberies, all the while destroying the city in the process (something that superhero movies have been called out for). While on a fishing trip, Tom tells Sonic that he needs to start taking responsibility for his actions, while teaching him what being a true hero is, which the hedgehog scoffs at.
Meanwhile, Dr. Robotnik (Carrey) has found himself stranded on the Mushroom Planet, where he has gone insane over the years, as he makes his coffees from the nectar of the mushroom spores, talks to rocks, and plays chess against a reflection of himself. It is also where he finds an ally in Knuckles (Voice of Idris Elba), who has as much of a vendetta against Sonic as Robotnik does, although Knuckles’ reason is much more personal. On the other hand, we also get to meet Tails (Voice of Colleen O’Shaughnessey reprising her role as the character), the two-tailed flying fox who was shown in the mid-credits sequence of the first Sonic, as his goal is to warn the blue hedgehog of the impending danger coming his way, only to end up accompanying him on his journey to find the Master Emerald – which is said to turn thoughts into power – before Robotnik and Knuckles get there.
The plot definitely comes from a Sonic game, which utilizes references, plot points, and set pieces to its advantage, which fans of the games will appreciate. Yet most of the journey revolves around Sonic and Tails as they go from one location to the next, spouting pop-culture references along the way, until they get to where they need to be. Sonic 2 is mainly a buddy comedy with elements of Sonic included and messages of friendship and family we have been exposed to many times. What sets the film back are its attempts at comedy leaning towards modern-day references that those in the know will probably laugh at. Some of these digs work, while others seem out of place. The funniest moments come from Knuckles, who is just as out-of-touch with how Earth works, while Jim Carrey is at his wackiest as Robotnik (Not enough to still convince me as the character, but a slight improvement all the same. One bit of comedy that could have been trimmed are the scenes with the humans. When it cuts to them, it feels like a different movie intermixed with this one, as half of it revolves around Tom and Maddie at her sister, Rachel’s wedding that, of course, goes wrong. I will admit that as much as I kind of enjoyed those scenes, they overstay their welcome, especially near the third act. Though, as Rachel, Natasha Rothwell is at her utmost hilarious, making those portions at least, watchable.
The real star however, are the visual effects on display. Sonic looks just as great as he did in his debut film, while Tails and Knuckles are rendered to perfection. They may be cartoon in look, but their fur is so detailed, you kind of believe that they are on screen. Seeing these characters travel with these features is pleasant to watch, and the voice actors especially do great work capturing the spirit of what these characters are about. Much like the first Sonic, those ingredients are the films’ saving graces.
At this point, I am not holding out hope for a Sonic the Hedgehog 3, but with what was teased in the mid-credits scene, I am curious to see where this franchise will be headed next.