If the first Sonic the Hedgehog film was a beginner's course in what to know about the speedster, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 very much feels like an intermediate test of how well the previous movie was processed. It doesn't totally eliminate the awkwardness of live-action characters fist-bumping and battling CGI elements that crossovers like these sometimes produce, but with all its hijinks and a much more forceful influx of Sonic references and characters, there's no mistaking this for a Sonic movie through and through.
In fact, you'd be forgiven if you forget in parts of the film that it's a blend between the Sonic universe and more earthly elements. Between Sonic and movie newcomers Tails and Knuckles as well as Jim Carrey's Dr. Robotnik finally able to go full mad genius, Sonic's running the show even more so than before. Robotnik honestly deserves to be counted for the CGI team as much as Sonic and company do, which gives us entire stretches of the movie where it's just fast moves and faster jokes without any human intervention at all.
And for the most part, that works well. There's a reason why Tails was chosen to be the first real addition to the Sonic series after the first movie, and it's made evident by his endearing admiration for Sonic. Ben Schwartz already nailed the role of Sonic, and Idris Elba is surprisingly fitting as Knuckles, but bringing in Colleen O'Shaughnessey to voice Tails seems like the only correct option after seeing Sonic the Hedgehog 2. The three form a Sonic trifecta with personalities and deliveries that balance each other out and always keep the others from overstaying their welcomes.
So, if Sonic and Tails already face off against Knuckles and Robotnik so well on their own, what's left for the rest of the human cast? While they still play a role in the plot, it very much feels at times as though their missions were fabricated solely to give them something to do while Sonic and his crew carried the story. That split between the parties does at least allow some of Sonic the Hedgehog's supporting characters to shine brighter in this sequel though. Lee Majdoub as Agent Stone and Adam Pelly as Wade honestly still feel underused even with how much they show up, but Natasha Rothwell as Rachel, Maddie's sister, was the most surprising of all. If Rachel isn't used as much, if not more, in the next Sonic movie, it'd be a huge step backward.
Perhaps it's this frequent separation between the two parties that makes the moments they converge click less at times than they did in the first movie. There is a bar scene in the first movie where Sonic has one of his first real outings at a biker bar to produce a cliché, but still supremely entertaining, altercation. A similar setup occurs in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 but is executed so differently from the first movie that it creates one of the rare moments in the sequel where you have to remind yourself it's an all-ages movie meant to appeal not just to the Sonic fandom overall but also to fans of a much younger demographic.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is just a bit longer than the first film, but that makes sense given that there are so many more Sonic elements to incorporate. It manages to juggle those extras well enough by still moving briskly to the point that it's not really apparent that it's longer outside of moments where humor doesn't hit but the punchline still has to be delivered regardless. The more CGI-heavy scenes where the Sonic cast brawl could've easily relied on blurs of colors to show off their speeds, but the altercations are crafted much more thoughtfully than anticipated.
As for the audience duality mentioned before where Sonic fans new and old must be considered, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 seems to do well to appeal to both demographics. This is particularly true where Robotnik – sometimes referred to as "Eggman" instead in this film – is concerned. Carrey's unrestrained portrayal of Robotnik can be Carrey on the loose for some and a Robotnik homage for others, but even if you don't understand everything he employs in his quest against Sonic, you see it and realize there's some depth to the tools he uses beyond being flashy constructs created for the sake of the film. It's things like that which will create Sonic fans outside of the live-action movies alone.
Does all this make Sonic the Hedgehog 2 better than the movie before it? It's hard to say, but it's certainly much bigger and much more Sonic-y than its predecessor while managing to maintain brevity often forgone in adaptations like this. Not every joke hits, but even those that miss still add to Sonic's goofy charm. The path forward for Sonic and his friends is clear – and Elba's performance as Knuckles is a big green check on the live-action series that seemed questionable before – but the human characters and their roles need sorting out before the next film.0comments
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is set to release in United States theaters on April 8th.