With 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog, Paramount and Sega tapped into something special. Regardless of my personal thoughts on quality, the film was a smash hit that set records for video game movies and 2020 box office stats alike. Ben Schwartz as the titular speedy hero quickly charmed the Internet after a much-needed redesign, Jim Carrey seemed to tap into the slumbering beast that is his excellency of having the most fun on screen at any given moment, and James Marsden is… well, you know what you’re getting with him, he’s great. A sequel was in the bag after that first opening weekend it seemed, and even though I was hesitant on more of these films, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 feels like a lesson learned by all involved. When it operates like a film based on a video game, it provides everything a fan of the game series (of which I am not, I’m sorry) could want on a silver platter; I can’t imagine many people are expecting more than that from a film like this. And it’s this exact reason that the film feels so disjointed every moment the focus turns away from Sonic.
Alongside newcomers Tails, reprising her role from the games brilliantly by Colleen O’Shaughnessey, and Knuckles, voiced villainously and aloofly by Idris Elba, surrounding him, a film like this should feel like a cake walk. What feels like a subplot built to keep the parents bringing their kids to the movies is more akin to a massive roadblock halting any progression. And in a film where its titular character’s sole purpose is they, “gotta move fast”, every second is deeply perplexing. It’s a completely unnecessary trip to Hawaii full of characters that supposedly were in the original film, which feels like a legitimate lifetime ago, which is no fault of anyone involved. And it feels important to point out that nobody in these scenes are necessarily bad, but it feels utterly pointless. Are audiences expected to believe that anybody on the planet would be rooting against Marsden’s irresistible charm? Simple problems become massive plot points almost for the sake of padding a runtime that exists solely because of this destination wedding.
While Marsden and wife Maddie are off on vacation, Sonic and Tails head off to Siberia after about halfway through the film so we can finally reach the first segment of the film that feels like a video game. After a lengthy dance battle, with a bit character that genuinely feels like a fever dream, and a MacGuffin if there ever was one, Sonic is forced to snowboard away from a legion of robots led by Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik. It feels ripped right out of Sonic Adventure, and it’s when the film is at its most fun for the first time. It’s here where one hopes O’Shaughnessey’s Tails will be given more to do as he has now learned from Sonic, but he is quickly cast aside in favor of a massive mishap in Hawaii. However, as the third act begins and our trio is inevitably brought together, the film seems to lean fully into its video game roots and leave all else to the wayside.
As far as video game movie fun goes, the final battle of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a serviceable one. We see classic Sonic moves as the heroes each play to their respective strengths, or smarts and speeds, to be more accurate. Robotnik is placed completely into the hands of a literal nostalgia machine, and for better or worse, it works. Maybe not literally or even cinematically, but on some level, the sheer zaniness of it all lends itself well to what is given. Wrapped up with a neat little bow for fans of the games and family-friendly film lovers alike, the post credit stinger will surely have many wondering what comes next or excited at the prospect of a third film. Personally, I was more excited for this than I was the first film, and by the end, I would say this won me over ever so slightly. I don’t know how long this franchise can go before it overstays its welcome, but at the very least, a trilogy capper does seem fitting if the filmmakers learn what was done right here, and leave the tropical vacation on whatever mushroom planet Dr. Robotnik was initially banished to.
Paramount Pictures will release “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” in theaters on Friday, April 8.