A film review by Craig J. Koban June 22, 2022

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 jjj

2022, PG, 122 mins.

Ben Schwartz as Sonic the Hedgehog (voice)  /  Idris Elba as Knuckles the Echidna (voice)  /  Colleen O'Shaughnessey as Miles 'Tails' Prower (voice)  /  Jim Carrey as Dr. Ivo Robotnik  /  James Marsden as Tom Wachowski  /  Tika Sumpter as Maddie Wachowski  /  Natasha Rothwell as Rachel  /  Adam Pally as Wade Whipple  /  Lee Majdoub as Stone

Directed by Jeff Fowler  /  Written by Pat Casey, Josh Miller, and John Whittington

There's a moment in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 that made me laugh...almost uncontrollably. 

You may recall that at the conclusion of the first 2020 franchise introductory installment (which I quite liked) that Jim Carrey's latte loving and moustache swirling madmen known as Dr. Ronotnik was soundly defeated by the titular hero and was banished to the mushroom kingdom for trying to steal his super speed powers.  

As this sequel opens we meet back up with this fallen baddie, who's now bald, sporting an even more preposterously long facial appliance that would make Hercule Poirot blush with envy, and has very much been driven insane by his doomed isolation.  He's still, though, a brilliant scientist with a plan to get back to Earth and thwart Sonic once and for all.  When he has achieved this initial part of his grand scheme of comeuppance, he waves one final goodbye to the mushroom kingdom and screams to the heavens "It's time to say goodbye to this piece of shiitake planet!!!" 

Now, that's funny, thanks largely - once again - to Carrey's thanklessly committed performance here, not to mention his unwavering ability to harness all of the rampant silliness that befalls these films.  

He also refers to the aforementioned kingdom as a "Portobello Purgatory."  

That's also quite funny.  

And it's moments like that - as well as many more - that ultimately makes SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 (yeah, no points for a winning title) a daftly engaging sequel that simply goes for it as opposed to simply looking back at what worked with its prequel to lazy regurgitate it.  And to be completely, fair, this sequel simply doesn't get bogged down in repetitive sameness, nor is it a backwards minded retread.  There are new characters galore, new threats, and a genuine move by the makers here to tap into the character's fairly rich 30 year video game history to propel this cinematic franchise forward, which, in turn, will greatly appease fans of the iconic Sega Genesis creation.  I would argue, however, that SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 is perhaps a bit too over plotted for its own good at times and at a frankly too arduously long running time that clocks in at over two hours it might cause child viewers (as well as many adults) to get a bit twitchy in their theatre chairs.  But there's ample easy going charm to be had here again, and Sonic himself remains an adorably sarcastic rascal that sometimes invites more trouble to come to him than he - and others around him - want. 

SONIC 2 picks up - as mentioned - right after the climax of the first film, with Sonic (still voiced appealingly by Ben Schwartz) continuing to live with his adoptive human couple in Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter), and despite the former's ability to cause a lot of mayhem with very little effort...and so fast (remember: he's super sonic), the couple still care for the little troublemaker as a husband and wife would with a human child.  Thinking that they can finally allow Sonic to be left alone, the couple decide to leave him so they can attend their friend Rachel's (Natasha Rothwell) wedding in Hawaii (Sonic is able to use one of his magic rings to allow for them to instantly transport to their destination, which is a nifty solution that allows for them to avoid crowed airports and long wait times as well as, yes, the hours of travel on a plane).  Before they leave, Tom pleads with Sonic to go a bit more low profile and not spend his nights moonlighting as the crime fighting "Blue Justice," but, yes, this is Sonic after all, so you just know that any alone time he gets will not be of the quiet variety at all.   

 

 

Sonic's brief bout of solitude at home is ruined by the appearance of that dastardly Dr. Robotnik, who not only - as referenced before - broke out of the nearly inescapable mushroom kingdom, but he also did so by bringing some backup in the form of Knuckles (voiced by - holy crap! - Idris Elba), a space echidna that has Sonic's super speed, but also packs a seriously powerful right hook that can incapacitate anyone in his path.  Both Robotnik and Knuckles are seeking an artifact known as the Master Emerald, which grants its holder the ability to turn any thought whatsoever into reality.  Sonic gets easily trounced in his first altercation with the demonically vindictive Knuckles, and with his human friends far away he has to seek out assistance through other means, which brings us to Tails (voiced by Colleen O'Shaughnessey), who's even more pint sized and cute than Sonic, but sports her own unique abilities that she hopes her new partner can utilize to stop Robotnik and his dangerous new ally before they completely destroy the fabric of reality itself. 

SONIC 2 offers up multiple entertaining vignettes, especially for die hard aficionados of the game universe when it comes to the dynamic due teaming of Sonic and Knuckles, leading to globetrotting adventures and an overall scale that kind of dwarves what we got before.  I chuckled during a sly sequence set in Siberia that has them searching for clues that might get them to the Master Emerald first, but they get sidetracked at a local watering hole that leads to them having a dance-off with the hostile locales (much like THE MUPPET films, most humans in this series don't seem altogether shocked by engaging with these furry, outlandish looking, and English speaking creatures).  One of my favorite subplots of SONIC 1 was Robotnik's incessant love of his minion's lattes ("Of course I want a latte! I LOVE THE WAY YOU MAKE THEM! he screamed at him in the first film), which allows for said minion, Stone (Lee Majdoub), to return once again, but he has fallen on hard times since his boss got banished off world.  His coffee shop (amusingly called The Mean Bean) hasn't been doing so well and - gasp! - got an F rating by the local Board of Health.  Turning lemons into lemonades, Stone converted it into a secret lair for Robotnik's long awaited return, and when he does return he's very quickly given one of Stone's finest brews.  I love that Robotnik has still has a taste for fine beverages despite being wholly insane, not to mention's Stone's steadfast devotion to his employer. 

And, yes, Carrey gives it his sinewy limbed and rubber faced all again in this part that joyously harkens back to his comedic roots as a movie star (even though he's a ripe old 60, the star still can gyrate with the best of them half his age).  He has gone on record as of late to say that SONIC 2 would be his last film as a movie actor (yeah, take that with a large grain of salt), but at least if it is then he's going out on his terms by tenaciously immersing himself in this wildly expressive psychopath with delusions of grandeur and world domination.  If there's one problem this time with SONIC it would be that any time away from Carrey and with the other human characters sticks out a bit more, especially when the script segues to many long scenes that don't really go anywhere for Tom and Maddie and their wild misadventures at their wedding destination (it's not the fault of Marsden or Sumptor; they simply don't scenery chew anywhere close to as well as Carrey).  Also not helping matters is the reappearance of the buffoon-like Deputy Wade (Adam Pally), who's given a larger role here for inexplicable reasons, seeing as he was the least funny element of SONIC 1.  This leads predictably to SONIC 2's self-indulgent running time, which has no business at all running a half hour longer than it does.  Sequels are frequently guilty of confusing more with better, and that's abundantly the case here. 

The scope of the VFX and action sequences are expanded upon as well, which is both welcoming and sometimes distracting here (Sonic - as a CG creation - is so flamboyantly and affectionately cartoony and faithful that he'll never be labeled as realistic looking entity, per se, in these films, and many times when he interacts with human actors you can tell that their body movements and eye lines don't always fluidly match from shot to shot).  SONIC 2 builds towards a truly epic and bonkers final act that's maybe a bit too chaotic minded for its own good, but you at least have to admire director Jeff Fowler's (who helmed the last one) untapped ambitiousness with the sights and sounds.  Helping everything go down is Schwartz's charismatic voice work as his blue hued, pint sized, and juvenile minded character that has a colorful quip for any situation.  I also liked the inclusion of Knuckles and Tails here too, which gives Sonic other CG characters to play off of now.  Overall, I appreciated that SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 wasn't just another fish out of water tale exploring the hero's attempts to acclimate to a human dominated world and instead opens up his universe a bit and allows him to - ahem! - run wild within its manic playground. It's lightweight, colorful, and engaging nonsense, but also a sequel that knows what it is and tries to delivery - and modestly succeeds - on its core promises and to its demographic.  

And as far as the relatively cursed video game to movie genre goes, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 - even with its deficiencies - still goes down more satisfyingly than most.   

Annnnnnd...a little bit of Carrey goes a long way, especially in the villainous trash talking department.  At one point Robotnik screams at one of his ineffectual colleagues, "You are as useful to me now as a backstage pass to Limp Bizkit!"  

Gotta say, I've never heard that one in a video game movie before.  

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