Released: 31st March
Seen: 29th June
Back in 2020 the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie was released. It quickly received wide acclaim from many people, largely because the studios changed the main design of Sonic after an initial backlash but people also praised several of the performances and thought it was a good representation of the character… I called it one of the worst films of 2020, largely because it felt like another standard “C list celebrity and CGI character take a road trip” movie that took a character known for speed and spent most of the movie with Sonic unable to use his speed power which is his main character trait (and also serious questions about how workers were treated in order to get the film finished with the new design). So naturally, a sequel sounded like an exhausting prospect for me… so imagine my surprise when Sonic the Hedgehog 2 isn’t totally awful.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 picks up several months after the first movie, with that lovable rascal Sonic (Ben Schwartz) living with Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter) having something of a normal life. When Tom and Maddie go off to celebrate Maddie’s sister’s wedding, Sonic is left home alone which naturally means he can cause a little chaos… but before he can do anything, the evil Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey) returns to earth from the weird dimension he was left on at the end of the last movie and brings along with him Knuckles (Idris Elba), a large red echidna who can punch super hard. See, Robotnik wants to find something known as a chaos emerald, and he will do whatever he has to in order to get it.
Where Sonic The Hedgehog 2 really works is when it embraces the source material, sequences of high octane adventure end up working really well this time around because they don’t come up with a contrived reason why the main character can’t run. Things like the temple sequence or the big final boss battle feel like they were lifted straight out of a Sonic game and given some actual gravitas. It’s hard not to want to grab hold of a controller and play along when the action scenes hit, utilizing the powers of Sonic, Knuckles and Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) to create some genuinely fun set pieces that really feel like they belong perfectly in this little franchise. The big temple sequence in particular might be one of the greatest translations of a 2D video game level into a live-action film.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 also, rather smartly, keeps most of its focus on Sonic and pushing the boring human stuff off to the side. Tom and Maddie are basically thrown off-screen for a solid hour with minimal reference so we can focus on the stuff that one would hope for in a Sonic movie. It’s honestly kind of jarring the few times we do sneak a peek at what they’re doing, like a different movie invaded for a few seconds just to remind everyone that someone did in fact pay James Marsden’s asking price to turn up on set. Sure they do eventually force us to remember that there are human characters other than Robotnik in Sonic The Hedgehog 2 because we need a wacky climax for the wedding plot, but it’s not as annoying as it was in the first film.
However, what’s more annoying than last time is Jim Carrey who honestly just isn’t even trying to hold back a little. He’s more of a cartoon than the cartoon characters are and it very often feels less like Robotnik and more like Jim Carrey doing schtick until something eventually lands. Normally I’m fine with a little overacting, it can be a lot of fun and Jim Carrey in particular used to be the master of finding that fine line between overacting and bad acting but in Sonic The Hedgehog 2 he just crosses that line every chance he can get to the point where he pops up and you wanna tell him to shut the hell up.
Also not helping is Sonic The Hedgehog 2‘s obscene length, there is no reason on earth why this film needed 2 hours to tell the story. Its pacing is all over the place, particularly around the middle where things tend to drag on. Storylines are tacked on for no reason (we did not need the CIA… just in general, they are not needed) and several sequences just feel like they’re stretched to their absolute limit for no reason other than someone felt like they needed to fill time. That pacing issue means that by the time Sonic The Hedgehog 2 hits the exciting stuff near the end, it’s hard not to be a little bored and just want everything to be over with.
Look, Sonic The Hedgehog 2 isn’t awful. It’s an undeniable improvement on the first one with a better understanding of the characters, better action setpieces and a lot more love for the source material that’s obvious in every single frame. However, if you weren’t a fan of the first one, this one’s not going to suddenly make you a convert to this franchise. It’s evolved from being actively bad to being tolerable with a few moments that show some serious potential that gives some hope that they might manage to make this series work.