DIRECTOR: Jeff Fowler

CAST: Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Colleen O’Shaughnessey, Idris Elba, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Lee Majdoub, Tom Butler, Elfina Luk, Shemar Moore

RUNNING TIME: 122 mins

CERTIFICATE: PG

BASICALLY…: Sonic (Schwartz) makes new alliances when facing the return of the evil Dr. Robotnik (Carrey)…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

For all the negative press surrounding the horrific original design of its main character (which was, thankfully, rectified following severe online backlash), the fact that the early 2020 big-screen debut of Sonic the Hedgehog wasn’t a complete trainwreck is relatively surprising. While far from perfect, the surprisingly-not-terrible video game adaptation was a fun, if low-key, family adventure that had enough laughs and thrills to entertain most audiences, with kids giggling at the slapstick caused by the blue furry speedster himself, to adults finding pleasure in watching Jim Carrey have a blast as the evil Dr. Robotnik.

The sequel, more or less, basically generates the same reaction: hardly the worst thing you could be taking your kids to see, but hardly world-changing at the same time for anyone else. Some parts are better than the first, and others are a little worse, but as long as there’s still a reasonable entertainment factor, then there’s really not much reason to get too upset.

We return to the small town of Green Hills, where Sonic (Ben Schwartz) has made a home with his surrogate human family, Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter). However, Sonic’s peaceful bliss is rudely interrupted by the sudden return of Dr. Robotnik (Carrey), who has arrived back on Earth with a new ally in tow: a red, vengeful and giant-fisted echidna named Knuckles (Idris Elba), who quickly bests Sonic’s speed powers and overall strength. Sonic is saved, though, by a flying yellow fox named Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey, who also voices the character in the video games), and together they embark on a mission to find and retrieve an all-powerful diamond known as the Master Emerald, before Robotnik and Knuckles can get to it and use its powers for evil.

Upping the ante with an Indiana Jones-style adventure plot is one way in which Sonic the Hedgehog 2 attempts to outpace its predecessor, and when it’s focusing just on this aspect of the movie, it is infinitely more enjoyable. Sure, not much of what the movie offers is completely fresh (booby traps, labyrinths, and big fights that happen mere feet from the big treasure are all conventions which are present and correct), but returning director Jeff Fowler brings enough cartoonish energy to the ridiculous plot and its even more outlandish characters that it contains a certain charm that can only be found within particular family movies from the late 90s through to the early 2000s. Like with the first, it’s as though the script for this was actually written back then, when the Sonic games were at the peak of their popularity, and was only now put into production nearly thirty year later, with some extra polishing to add some more relevant pop-culture humour into the dialogue (which, if you’re already not a fan of that, may cause your head to explode here). However, it’s still made acceptable because the writing, though exceptionally simplistic at times, does add some noticeable appreciation and respect for its iconic characters, from Sonic who continues to be a lively hero for kids, to Tails and Knuckles who both make their film debuts here, and are as close to their original video game counterparts as they possibly can be. That, and Jim Carrey is once more having the time of his life as Robotnik, with a bushier moustache and shaved head that’s a lot closer to his original game design, but with 110% of that usual Carrey energy.

However, that doesn’t prevent the movie from making a number of sequel-centric missteps along the way. With so much focus on Sonic and his new pals, the writers struggle to find stuff for its non-Carrey human cast to do, and instead settle on sending some of them to Hawaii for no real reason (other than, perhaps, they just wanted an excuse to go there and have a free holiday). The pacing is often ruptured as a result, for it will suddenly cut from an intense plot-setting exposition dump to James Marsden making a fool out of himself playing volleyball, and then back to Sonic and Tails bracing through a snowstorm. Even worse, though, is a later section dedicated to one loose plot strand featuring Natasha Rothwell (reprising her role from the first film), which stops the movie dead in its tracks so it can give the actress, who stole a few scenes in the original, a much more prominent role in what is honestly a very pointless sub-plot. It’s the kind of thing you’d see in a Transformers sequel, when minor comedic supporting characters from the first movie have their roles unnecessarily expanded in the second, though here it’s nowhere near as embarrassing as what they had Sam’s parents do in that second Transformers movie. Trimming this wildly needless section of the movie, as well as most scenes with Adam Pally’s doofy sheriff (also an expanded leftover from the first film), would have prevented this movie from being just over two hours long.

Most of the film is harmless enough for kids, but it’s understandable if adults aren’t so forgiving this time round, with numerous eye-rolling family movie conventions that really should have died back in the early 2000s – a random dance fight, for one – and endless pop culture references which may be too much for some. However, for not just a video game movie but one based on Sonic the Hedgehog, it’s honestly amazing that neither this nor the first movie aren’t completely terrible: not great by any means, and hardly world-changing, but perfectly adequate for most ages to absorb. While the wait for that truly great video game movie continues to drag on and on, it’s nice to know that there are at least some ones out there which aren’t pitifully embarrassing – something that the Sonic movies, with their fart jokes and cartoonish slapstick, so easily could have been, and yet aren’t completely so.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is an adequate video game sequel which has enough charm to entertain kids and most adults, although the latter may not be so forgiving this time for its unnecessarily expanded comedic side characters and overly excessive pop culture references, which occasionally stop the much more fun adventure movie with Sonic and his friends, as well as a lively Jim Carrey, dead in its tracks.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is now showing in cinemas nationwide – click here to find a screening near you!

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