I wasn’t in love with the first Sonic the Hedgehog film, but I’ve grown nostalgic for it in some strange ways. I saw it in a packed theater on its opening Friday back in February 2020, roughly a month before the COVID-19 pandemic changed literally everything. Little did I know it would be one of the last theater experiences for me for over a year.
Just over two years later, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 sprints into theaters, reuniting us with the titular hedgehog hero, his human family, and a handful of characters that will be welcomed by anyone who played the library of Sega games. Although I still contend this property would’ve been better adapted to the screen in the nineties, this sequel is superior to the original in nearly every way. Perhaps its best attribute is the fact that now that we’ve seen the perfunctory origins story, it can finally get to the good stuff.
Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) has made Green Hills, Montana his home and Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter) his loving family. His worst attribute, however, is sneaking out in the middle of the night and playing Batman, minus the success of actually helping people and instead causing more disorder. On a fishing trip, it’s Tom who tells Sonic that he needs to learn the value of being a hero as opposed to contributing to the chaos.
When Tom and Maddie depart for Maddie’s sister’s (Natasha Rothwell) wedding in Hawaii, little do they know that Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) has escaped from the mushroom planet to which he was exiled. Robotnik enlists in the help of Knuckles (Idris Elba, a terrific, fitting voice), a red echidna, to take down Sonic and hunt down a hidden emerald that will make him unstoppably powerful.
Just as the two are ostensibly going to close-in on Sonic, the flighty fox Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) arrives and rescues the hedgehog. Tails is Sonic’s biggest fan, and with his smarts and flying ability, he’s the perfect plus-one for our hero.
The trio of screenwriters (Pat Casey, Josh Miller, and John Whittington) wisely sideline Marsden’s bland everyman for a great deal of the first half. Such a move allows Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles centerstage. Jim Carrey goes completely feral here for another winning performance; a terrific throwback to his Ace Ventura days in what could be one of his last film roles, if not his final. Between Sonic and Tails figuring out each other’s strengths, Knuckles’ enjoyable brooding, and Robotnik’s uncontainable craziness, there’s enough meat to this sequel to negate the plodding pace its predecessor had.
The action is far better as well. There’s a terrific sequence that has Sonic and Tails snowboarding down a mountain at breakneck speed with Robotnik and Knuckles rapidly gaining speed. The moment climaxes during a funny mix-up involving Sonic’s famous rings that’s unintentionally initiated by Tom, which incorporates him and Maddie back into the story rather seamlessly.
There are some groan-inducing moments. Of course, Sonic and Tails have to pause for the obligatory dance sequence in an unfriendly Siberian bar. The film’s length can get in the way too. Two hours feels a tick too long for a movie that’s pacing seems to lead to two separate climaxes. One involving federal agents at the aforementioned wedding feels completely unresolved. Most won’t notice because the real finale is a total thrill.
Give Sonic the Hedgehog some credit: these films use personality and intense action as fuel as opposed to nostalgia. They’re neither littered with obvious callbacks nor incessant Easter eggs for the older fans. When they do pop up, they’re pleasant in their brevity, not to mention well-played — such as Robotnik’s creation’s instruction manual mirroring one for a Sega Genesis game. Paramount made the wise move in aiming these movies at the younger crowd without them being too sanitized.
Now for the inevitable third film, please find a way to incorporate Amy Rose to appease this Sonic fan’s heart.
NOTE: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is now playing exclusively in theaters.
Voiced by: Ben Schwartz, Idris Elba, and Colleen O’Shaughnessey. Starring: Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Lee Majdoub and Shemar Moore. Directed by: Jeff Fowler.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!