Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022)
Welcome to the next level.
That was fast. Everyone’s favorite blue anthropomorphic speedster, Sonic the Hedgehog, is back after the smashing success of the live-action adaptation of the much-loved Sega videogame, which was an impressive, heart-filled spectacle. The 2020 film was a winning family-action buddy romp that told the story of how an intergalactic Hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz) became friends with a small-time local sheriff named Tom Wachowski (James Marsden). When Sonic the Hedgehog surpassed all expectations and became the sixth highest-grossing film and biggest ‘superhero’ movie of that year, breaking Marvel’s decade-long run (thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and worldwide lockdowns), a speedy sequel was inevitable. Heck, the arrival of Sonic’s best bud, the orange double-tailed fox aptly named Tails, at the close of the former film almost guaranteed that a franchise was already in the works at Paramount, even before Sonic won the hearts of both fans and critics.
This second adventure kicks off roughly a year after Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey, once again channeling his 90s-era over-the-top persona) was banished to the mushroom planet, presumably Mushroom Hill Zone. When the movie opens, we learn that the marooned mad scientist has been planning his return to Earth; he’s made a whole lot of loopy gadgets and machines to help him survive and eventually find his way back home to seek revenge on Sonic and ‘Take Over the World.’
Things get interesting when Dr. Robotnik crosses paths with Knuckles the Echidna (voiced by Idris Elba), who, as it turns out, also has beef with The Blue Blur. Knuckles, who’s blessed with super-strength, is the sole standing member of a warrior tribe, the sworn enemy of Sonic’s now-dead surrogate mother, the noble Longclaw (Donna Jay Fulks). And with Knuckles being the last living guardian of the Master Emerald, he’s tasked with locating the stone before it gets into the wrong hands. This massive green gem, which acts as the film’s McGuffin, is an ancient relic that bestows its owner with untold power. Knuckles believes that Sonic, through his connection with Longclaw, knows its whereabouts. Thus, with Robotnik and Knuckles having a common enemy, they agree to join forces.
Meanwhile, back on the Blue Planet, Sonic has been enjoying life in Green Hills, Montana, having found his family in Tom (James Marsden reprising his role) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Sonic, though, has been sneaking out late at night, acting as an amateur vigilante (he goes by the name Blue Justice), much to Tom, Sonic’s father figure’s disapproval, who tells the teenaged speed-hog to be patient, as his time to be a hero will someday come. When Tom and Maddie travel to Hawaii for the wedding of Rachel (Natasha Rothwell), Maddie’s sister, the evil Eggman returns to Earth with his new ‘Space Porcupine’ pal in search of the Master Emerald, disrupting Sonic’s suburban life. Luckily, help arrives in the form of Miles “Tails” Prower (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey, reprising her role from the video games), an earnest twin-tailed fox with the ability to fly, warning Sonic of the threat Robotnik and Knuckles present.
So, to save the galaxy, Sonic teams up with Tails, and the pair embark on a grand adventure, charting safe and not-so-safe zones to locate the mystical green gemstone before Robotnik and Knuckles get their mitts on it. However, when Carrey’s bald, mustache-twirling bad guy learns more about the crystal’s ‘ultimate power,’ he decides to double-cross Knuckles and steal it for his own diabolical scheme.
Helmed by returning director Jeff Fowler, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, while never outrunning the 2020 film — which, let’s face it, was a surprise hit that nobody saw coming — matches it on every level, albeit with larger set pieces and better VFX. Sonic 2 is a high-flying, hugely entertaining, funny action-adventure that pays homage to the beloved Sonic the Hedgehog character.
The film borrows heavily from 1992’s Sonic 2 and 94’s Sonic & Knuckles 16-bit platform videogames on the Sega Genesis. I’ve played those games dozens of times and had an absolute blast spotting the many fun winks and Easter Eggs, which have been cleverly inserted to garner laughs. We get Knuckles’ signature move, the Punch Attack; there’s a great callback to Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, a 1993 puzzle game; and we see Sonic ward off drowning by inhaling a bubble underwater, a nerve-jangling moment from the Sonic Genesis game series that players will undoubtedly recall. Also memorable is Dr. Robotnik’s Egg Smasher, his robotic creation in the film’s third act, which shares a striking similarity to the Death Egg, the final boss in the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Sega game. And with that comes Tails’ Tornado biplane; seeing it on the silver screen brought a smile to my face. There are a couple of other big surprises, which I won’t dare spoil.
Of course, the film wastes no time; it quickly gets moviegoers up to speed and introduces all the new players, then proceeds at a break-neck pace, just the way Sonic would like it. Granted, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is at its best when it’s the Red Quill vs. the Blue Quill — some of these fight scenes look as though they’ve literally been pulled straight out of a video game. And they’re flipping awesome! Clocking in at over two hours, Sonic 2 may test the patience of younger moviegoers; there are certain parts that the film could’ve done without — there’s a kiddy dance number in Siberia that kind of halts momentum.
With a screenplay and story penned by Pat Casey and Josh Miller — who’ve returned for the sequel — and John Whittington, The Lego Batman Movie (2017), Sonic the Hedgehog 2 expands the universe established by its predecessor, exploring the lore surrounding Sonic’s planet of origin. While revisiting themes of family and friendship from the previous entry, the film focuses slightly on Sonic’s discovery of what it means to be a hero. But it’s not quite at the level of Spider-Man’s ‘With great power, comes great responsibility.’ Naturally, there are laugh-out-loud gags, crowd-cheering moments, and kid-friendly whiz-bang action, the highlight being an Indiana Jones-type sequence inside of a reemerged underwater temple. There’s also a cool action scene that sees Sonic spar with Knuckles while snowboarding down the side of a mountain, fleeing from a large swarm of Dr. Robotnik’s drones.
Although Ben Schwartz is still spirited and endearing as the bright-blue titular hedgehog, the introduction of classic anthropomorphic critters Tails and Knuckles elevates the proceedings. Sonic’s red, over-serious rival is the best new addition to the roster and often steals the show. Idris Elba, Thor: Ragnarok (2017), who lends his vocals to the spiny antagonist, is given a heap of great one-liners, his dry, stern temperament counteracting Sonic’s playful vigor. Jim Carrey, once again, dives into the role of Sonic’s unhinged archnemesis, Dr. Robotnik, who (this time) gets to ride around in the Egg Mobile, his own rotund personal carrier, which has been a feature of the videogame villain’s arsenal since Sonic the Hedgehog first appeared on the Genesis in ‘91. Carrey gives two hundred percent here, delivering yet another committed turn, complete with exaggerated line readings and those seemingly elastic facial expressions and rubbery body movements that the comedian is synonymous with.
The support players are also excellent. Ex-Saturday Night Live star Natasha Rothwell owns all her scenes as the no-nonsense Rachel, whose Maui wedding subplot is an absolute hoot — usually, the human story threads in these kinds of films drag them down, but it’s certainly not the case here. Rothwell is hysterical as an unhinged bridezilla and almost hijacks the entire movie. Finally, Lee Majdoub, Puppet Killer (2019), returns as Robotnik’s obedient 2IC, Agent Stone, who’s perfected his barista skills while his boss was MIA, having taken over a local coffee shop.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 may not be an upgrade on the 2020 original, but it’s still very much a worthy companion and a great continuation. Basically, if you enjoyed the first movie and know what you’re dashing into, you’ll have a whirl of a time. The film is colorful and cartoony, but it’s so charming and energetic. Kids will eat it up. With an absolute zinger of a mid-credit scene, let’s hope that the return of the speedy, chilidog-loving hedgehog is faster than expected.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Stu Cachia (S-Littner)