What to Watch Verdict
Sonic’s second outing re-unites the original crew — with added Knuckles power.
Color and action
Great for kids
Plays it safe
Two hour running time
Just a smidge over two years since Sega’s Sonic The Hedgehog made the leap from games to the big screen, he returns for a second outing in — wait for it — Sonic The Hedgehog 2. We knew a sequel was coming — it was announced just weeks after the first film opened — and that title rather hints at what’s to come.
Picking up the action a few months after the end of its predecessor, the villainous Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey) is still languishing on the Mushroom Planet. He’s desperate to get away and resume his quest for world domination. His only company is a large round boulder painted with a face (called Stone, instead of Wilson) who isn’t the world’s best conversationalist, so when the chance to escape through a portal comes along, he’s through it like a rat up the proverbial drainpipe.
He also meets a new ally in the shape of the formidable Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba), a bright red warrior echidna, who is deadly serious about catching up with Sonic (the voice of Ben Schwartz). Robotnik and his companion have something in common.
At the same time, the speedy blue hedgehog has become a nighttime crime fighter on the streets of Seattle, spending his days in the more peaceful Greenhills, with his surrogate family of Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Sonic is tracked down by the mild-mannered fox Tails (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey) and when Robotnik’s latest plot becomes clear — it involves an all-powerful emerald — they join forces to put a stop to his nefarious activities once and for all.
If that sounds familiar, it’s down to the makers’ “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. The entire gang from the first outing is back — as well as Schwartz, Carrey, Marsden and Sumpter in the cast, director Jeff Fowler returns, as do writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller. After a near-false start in 2020 over Sonic’s appearance at the hands of Paramount’s CGI team, his big screen debut eventually received a warm response. It was fun, colourful, had a certain freshness and was that cinematic rarity — a video game adaptation that worked pretty well. The bar was set high for the follow-up.
Yet Fowler and co have, essentially, played it safe. It doesn’t get in the way of the film’s family entertainment value, but there are a few too many references to other movie franchises. Nods to superheroes abound, from the emerald being part of a set of multi-coloured stones to Sonic’s own Caped Crusader-style activities and the whiff of Thanos which surrounds Robotnik’s ambitions. Surviving the rigours of a sequence ripped straight from Tomb Raider, he screams “I can’t die like this! It’s too derivative!” We kinda know he feels.
Stretched to a two hour running time, the film loses its energy and slows down to a splutter at the start of the final third for a contrived wedding sequence and never quite regains its momentum. Not even Sonic’s super speed can bring back all of its fizz, but something close to rescue comes in the unexpected shape of Knuckles, whose serious approach to anything and everything makes him a natural for fish-out-of-water comedy. And with Elba’s perfectly pitched, gruff delivery, he almost single-handedly stops things grinding to a halt.
The loveable cheekiness that Schwartz brought to Sonic is as consistent as ever, and still guarantees a smile on the face. But this time round Carrey looks less comfortable as Robotnik, giving the impression of being constrained by his pun-packed dialogue which is sometimes less than inspired. Yes, there’s even a shiitake joke in the Mushroom Planet opening.
Is Sonic 2 super? Not quite, although there are times when it comes close to recapturing the charm and vibrancy of the first one. As a piece of family entertainment, it’s colorful, action-packed and more than light-hearted enough to keep everybody amused. Even with that running time.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 releases in cinemas on Friday, April 1, in the UK and April 8 in the US.
Freda can't remember a time when she didn't love films, so it's no surprise that her natural habitat is a darkened room in front of a big screen. She started writing about all things movies about eight years ago and, as well as being a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic, is a regular voice on local radio on her favorite subject.
While she finds time to watch TV as well — her tastes range from Bake Off to Ozark — films always come first. Favourite film? The Third Man. Top ten? That's a big and complicated question .....!