Review: ‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2’ – References, Romance, and Robotnik

Paramount

Oh, Sonic. What a weird ride it has been to get to this point. The first Sonic live-action movie was the last film I saw in theatres before the pandemic. I remember walking away from it feeling little bits of nostalgia creeping into my brain. Still, I could not remember much about the plot aside from Robotnik and the blue hedgehog. It was part road trip movie, part buddy comedy, but lacked all the fantastical elements of the games.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 bravely tried to rectify these issues with a lot of success and one glaring failure. We get adventure and action. We see fan-favorite characters inch closer to their video game counterparts. And we get a weird detour into a romantic comedy subplot for no reason. Yes, the story of Sonic 2 is just as odd as the premise of the games that bear his name.
The plot picks up some 250+ days after Sonic defeated Dr. Robotnik, sending Eggman to the Mushroom Planet. Rather than admit defeat, the evil scientist uses what little tech he has with him to create a beacon.
Thanks to one of Sonic’s quills, this beacon’s signal attracts a specific group of hunters lead by Knuckles. After striking a deal with Robotnik, Knuckles is led to Earth, believing Sonic knows the location of the hidden Chaos Emerald.
Knuckles isn’t the only one on Sonic’s trail. Tails arrive on Earth just in time to save the speedy needle mouse from angry red echidna. The two then set off to find the Chaos Emerald with Robotnik and Knuckles on their trail. The plot could not be more straightforward, and that is always the best when we’re talking about an action-adventure movie. The downside is we get a few stilted exposition dumps, but that’s more of a fault of the first movie not setting up more info about Sonic’s guardian or the ongoing battle between the two tribes.
Sonic and Tails, as characters, are fun. Tails is chipper and admires Sonic genuinely, rather than the annoying fanboy/fangirl trope we’ve seen all too often in media. However, their friendship is a bit rushed, and perhaps their bonding moment could have been handled with a better scenario than a dance-off inside of a Siberian cabin tavern (yes, that does happen).
What I will give Sonic 2 credit for is playing up to the franchise’s fans. This encompasses fans of the games, comics, and cartoons. Sonic 1 and this sequel don’t fall into the same trap we see many other franchises fall into. It does not treat the fans like pests, nor does the film try to deconstruct the Hedgehog through a post-modern lens of bleakness.
Bringing Colleen O’Shaughnessey in to voice Miles ‘Tails’ Prower is a testament to how this production is fan-focused instead of trying to water everything down for the “average” filmgoer. Unlike Ben Schwartz’s Sonic, O’Shaughnessey’s voice perfectly matches the cartoony twin-tailed fox. It’s evident that the backlash against the original Sonic design set into motion several changes that were more than purely aesthetic. I wish the same case could be said for Knuckles.
Idris Elba’s voice work as the last of the Echidnas is rough. I understand what Elba was going for, but there’s so little passion or conviction in his performance. The character is the last of his kind, sworn to a mission that has taken him across the galaxy, and he ultimately sounds bored. Knuckles needed a seasoned voice actor to pull it off. Someone like Clancy Brown should have been in the recording booth instead.
Aside from that hiccup, the rest of the casting is well put together, if not excessive. Unfortunately, during the middle of the film, we get what feels like 20 minutes of fluff centered around a very contrived plot point that hinges on a million-to-one chance that Sonic will be in this exact place, at this exact moment.
Yes, we’re talking about Rachel’s wedding in Hawaii. General Olive Garden from the first film has put together a team going by the acronym GUN to hunt down Sonic. His gameplan? To catfish Rachel (Natasha Rothwell) using an undercover agent so they’ll get married, invite Tom and Maddie Wachowski to the ceremony, and hope that Sonic just maybe there.
Of course, through a very contrived plot device, Tom has to use a misplaced magic gold ring to save Sonic just in time for him to be in full view of an entire gathering of undercover agents … and before Shemar Moore’s character, Randall can officially marry Rachel.
Sonic 2 officially turned into a rom-com about a government agent falling in love with the woman he was pretending to marry. Natasha Rothwell and Tika Sumpter get a few funny moments while they use the aftermath of the ruined wedding to find the now-captured Sonic and Tails, but once that’s done, both Rachel and Randall vanish from the movie. They do not come back at the end or in a post-credit scene. They’re gone. No payoff or anything.
This section of the movie felt like it was added entirely to pad out the runtime. Why? I have no idea. The film is 2 hours long and Sonic being captured added nothing to the movie aside from giving more screen time to the secondary human characters.
I could see my daughter getting visibly bored by this, making for the perfect bathroom break. No plot elements are lost, aside from letting us know that the plane Tails uses later came from (he stole it and somehow managed to modify it with guns off-screen in a concise amount of time).
Aside from this weird detour in the plot that ultimately added nothing to our knowledge of the main characters, the rest of the story is pretty straightforward for the rest of the runtime. Robotnik gets what he wants by betraying his new pal, and Sonic must work with everyone as a team to defeat a new god-like threat.
As I mentioned before, this movie is 100% for those who have been fans of the Hedgehog through several different mediums. The references come fast, like jokes in a classic comedy from Abrahams & the Zuckers. Some are quickfire visual gags. For example, there’s an instruction guide styled like a Genesis game’s manual. And there are the obvious ones like Eggman’s secret lair disguised as a coffee shop called ‘The Mean Bean.’
We even get a brief glimpse of what Robotnik would look like if he were as plump as he is in the original games. Even Eggman’s robots and personal transport are direct references from the early games. Sonic 2 embraces the cartoony aspects of the characters as it should.
Oh, there is a mid-credit scene. Luckily, the credits take the form of an animated retelling of the film’s story so that you won’t be sitting through a long list of names for a brief two-minute snippet teasing the next movie. Yes, it does show off another long-time Sonic character, but I won’t spoil it. I will say, though, that the reveal doesn’t make a lot of scenes.
This film has a lot going for it over the first Sonic movie. Thankfully, the human characters have less screen time except for the filler in the middle. Sonic finds his calling. Tails finds his hero, and Knuckles comes to terms with the reality of why others tried to keep the Chaos Emerald safe.
Jim Carrey has fully embraced the maniacal aspects of Dr. Robotnik and honestly does try to recapture his energy from the ’90s. However, much of his performance made me wonder how off-the-wall Eggman would have been if younger Jim had a shot at the role.
If the film franchise moves the story away from Earth for the majority of the next installment, I could see the Sonic series finding the right setting for its anthropomorphic characters. But instead, the human characters and their drama are hindering the story’s flow.
7/10

Mike Phalin

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