REVIEW: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 [2022]

Rating: 6 out of 10.
  • Rating: PG | Runtime: 122 minutes
    Release Date: April 8th, 2022 (USA)
    Studio: Paramount Pictures
    Director(s): Jeff Fowler
    Writer(s): Pat Casey & Josh Miller and John Whittington / Pat Casey & Josh Miller (story)

Dot, dot, dot.

The first Sonic the Hedgehog movie ended with an apparent happy ending for Sonic (Ben Schwartz) and his new adopted family (James Marsden‘s Tom and Tika Sumpter‘s Maddie Wachowski). Not only had the little “blue devil” found a way to focus his speed force and send unhinged government spook Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) through a portal to the uninhabited “Mushroom Planet,” his heroism also endeared him to the town of Green Hills enough to invite him in as a covert member of their citizenship. Between a visit from Commander Walters (Tom Butler) and a look-in on Robotnik’s quest to return home, however, we know that the Wachowskis will hardly find peace when all is said and done. It’s only a matter of time before their idyllic façade shatters.

That task was left to the returning team of director Jeff Fowler and screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller (with the addition of John Whittington) as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 more or less commences a year after the events of its predecessor. Sonic is learning that ambition and expertise don’t automatically align thanks to his attempts at being a superhero who causes more property damage than the people he saves thinks is worth their own lives. Tom is striving to set a fatherly example with an Uncle Ben-type speech that thankfully doesn’t guarantee his demise for it to sink in. And Robotnik readies to fire up a makeshift interstellar beacon with the hopes that someone for whom his superior intellect can ultimately overpower will come looking.

As teased during the original film’s credits, Sonic is also getting help this time courtesy of a young flying fox named Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey). And with their newfound alliance comes a similar one on the side of evil once Knuckles (Idris Elba) arrives. Tails wants to use his technical wizardry to help his favorite hero (he’s been watching Sonic from his home planet ever since the hedgehog let his speed get the better of him on that baseball diamond) and Knuckles wants to ascertain the so-called Master Emerald’s location for which he believes Sonic is key. While the latter sees Robotnik as a means to an end he can walk away from later, however, Robotnik sees Knuckles as a map towards absolute power. Honor proves inconsequential opposite betrayal.

So, it’s a race. Rather than searching for his rings to jump planets before Robotnik turns him into a battery to power his bid for world domination, Sonic needs to acquire the emerald before the “Eggman” can succeed where he previously failed. He and Tails walk through much the same path as the one he walked with Tom a year ago: causing a commotion at a bar filled with heavies and inevitably finding the object of his desire right when his enemy pounces. Knuckles and Robotnik follow a similar trajectory as the latter did with his loyal sycophant Stone (Lee Majdoub) too, only with a bit more animosity since the alien has a purpose beyond self-gratification. Where does that therefore leave Tom and Maddie? In Hawaii, of course.

It’s the unfortunate and often unavoidable issue many sequels of this kind face: having to juggle an ever-expanding cast of characters for which many have proven obsolete. Beyond the notion of sacrifice, killing off the likes of Jonathan Kent and Uncle Ben does also help stream-line things when you move from origin tale to hero’s journey—especially when the latter demands sidekicks that better suit the job of protectors once the stakes rise. Casey, Miller, and Whittington realize that spending time with Tails and Knuckles is paramount to achieve their endgame (fans of the game should be happy with the climatic fight), so the Wachowskis take a backseat via a wedding subplot (between the scene-stealing Natasha Rothwell reprising her role as Maddie’s sister and Shemar Moore) until needed.

And they will be needed. The plot sadly becomes disjointed, but there’s reason for the additional complexity even if it could have been handled a bit smoother (the fact the film is over two hours is enough to prove the cutting room floor had potential for more debris than it received). Thankfully it’s all still a lot of fun (even if the Hawaii bits didn’t seem they would be before Fowler let Rothwell go wild). Between Tails’ cute little brother energy, Knuckles’ Drax-like lack of chill, and Carrey being able to push Robotnik well past the line of absurdity set during the first film, there’s a ton to enjoy beyond Schwartz’s own affable hilarity. The action scenes have improved too with additional character and less reliance on gimmick.

That happens when the playing field narrows. Knuckles’ speed counters Sonics to the point of negating it and the trio of aliens possessing morality guarantees they’ll always underestimate Robotnik’s penchant for swooping in while everyone else is distracted by each other. If the first film gave Sonic a home in Green Hills, this one is opening the door to expanding that inclusiveness to the world. It’s about building trust much like every other superhero tale: can humanity sleep at night knowing there’s someone with infinite power looking out for their best interests or will they stay up wondering when that power will turn its sights on them? Give Sonic that unbridled God-like strength that Robotnik seeks and maybe he stops being quite so cute and cuddly.

Unlike those other superhero films, however, Sonic the Hedgehog seems comfortable with its PG-rating. Rather than find a place for dour melodrama and high-stakes sacrifice, Fowler and company keep things light and overly goofy to counteract its apocalyptic capacity. The series stays small-scale with Sonic finding friends and family to lean on. It allows him to keep the fight personal (Robotnik wants control, but he wants to destroy this thorn in his side more) so that things never get so out-of-hand we’re worrying about collateral damage and PTSD like DC and Marvel. My partner made the analogy that it feels like Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote and she’s spot on. This is “Looney Tunes” zaniness where explosions leave people alive yet singed. Realism isn’t a motivating factor.

[1] Knuckles (Idris Elba) and Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in Sonic The Hedgehog 2 from Paramount Pictures and Sega.
[2] James Marsden, Tika Sumpter and Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 from Paramount Pictures and Sega. Photo Credit: Courtesy Paramount Pictures and Sega of America.
[3] Jim Carrey in Sonic The Hedgehog 2 from Paramount Pictures and Sega. Photo Credit: Courtesy Paramount Pictures and Sega of America.

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