2020’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” proved to be a surprise hit with both fans and critics when it was first released. Based on the hit video game series, the film was filled with quirky jokes and charming performances — especially from Jim Carrey as the nefarious Dr. Robotnik — that added lots of heart to what was essentially a standard “fish out of water” story.
Two years later, the franchise’s second major outing in cinemas, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” hopes to strike gold again, this time by adhering to the source material more closely. Expanding the story to an adventure of a larger scale and introducing more of Sonic’s compatriots, “Sonic 2” tries to put its best foot forward and continue pleasing fans of all ages.
Despite its well-meaning intentions, it feels as if the movie never fully commits to its more extensive approach. That is not to say there is nothing to praise about the movie.
The film does a lot of things right; nearly everything taken from the original game series feels perfectly executed, especially when it comes to character dynamics. Not only that, strong performances are plentiful in the film and there are plenty of set pieces and sequences that are objectively gorgeous to watch.
Where the film falters is in its writing. With consistent tonal dissonance between the plot itself and how it unfolds via dialogue and attempts at comedy, it feels as though the film wishes to stick to its roots, but in doing so, majorly prevents itself from reaching its full potential.
Months after the first film, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” follows the Blue Blur as he tries to protect Earth from evil with varying degrees of success.
Soon after Tom and Maddie leave Sonic to attend a Hawaiian wedding though, Dr. Robotnik suddenly returns from the outer reaches of space, with the intense, no-nonsense Knuckles working at his side. Uncovering an ancient legend surrounding a powerful relic known as the Master Emerald, Sonic must team up with the inventive but timid Tails in order to save the world again and learn what it really means to be a hero.
As previously mentioned, “Sonic 2” takes various story elements from the video games, and for the most part it handles these elements with great care. From the Master Emerald to the backstories behind Tails and Knuckles, newcomers can pick up on these new elements easily enough while fans can enjoy the nice inclusions from the source material.
This extends to the animated characters themselves, Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. Ben Schwartz continues to prove himself to be a lovable Sonic, mixing the right amount of snark and kind-heartedness into every word he speaks.
His compatriots are designed with just as much care, both visually and vocally. Both of their looks translate well from game to movie, and their performances are just as lively.
Colleen O’Shaughnessey, reprising her role as Tails from the games — a role she has played since 2014 — continues to be a blast to watch, making it easy to feel his insecurities and cheer for him as he overcomes them.
Idris Elba’s role as Knuckles presents his naturally gruff voice, which adds to Knuckles’ warrior attitude. He is disciplined, determined and has understandable goals, and he is definitely a standout in the cast. Combined with Jim Carrey continuing to be wildly zany as Robotnik, and you have a main cast for the ages.
Another criticism of the movie is how the events surrounding the main crew and set pieces unfold. The screenplay maintains a somewhat consistent level of quality with its predecessor, but it needed to have more.
The film’s humor continues to be simple with offhand comments and pop culture references making up a bulk of it. While certain moments are chuckle-worthy, it often feels like they are capable of telling smarter and more witty jokes but are simply choosing not to. It takes away from opportunities for natural dialogue.
The problem with “Sonic 2” is that it doesn’t exactly know what it wants to be. It tries to step into a wider world of high-stakes action and adventure but is too attached to its simple beginnings in order to fully embrace it. Younger fans will still fall in love with the entirety of the film, and while older fans can definitely enjoy it, as there are plenty of praise-worthy things about it, there is a disconnect between what could have been and what was actually released.
Based on the film’s financial outings, Sonic and his friends have a bright future ahead of them when it comes to having more movies made about them. Only time will tell if the franchise will speed towards new horizons or slow down in complacency.