3 out of 5 stars

Few expected Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) to gross $319M after its trailer earned the ire of fans for its creepier, more realistic version of Sega’s spiky mascot. Arriving just before the COVID-19 pandemic triggered global lockdowns and cinemas closed, it was also a lot of people’s last big-screen experience for over a year (and the only new thing to watch in certain territories throughout spring), but a sequel was nevertheless greenlit amidst decent reviews.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 adheres to the sequel formula by doing broadly the same thing again, only bigger. The budget was boosted (from the original’s reported $90M to around $110M) and returning writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller, now joined by John Whittington (The Lego Batman Movie), rummaged around the franchise’s mythology to introduce favourites like flying fox Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) and villainous echidna Knuckles (Idris Elba).

Eight months after the denouement of Sonic the Hedgehog, with a defeated Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) now scraping an existence on a bizarre Mushroom Planet filled with fungi, he uses his vast intellect to signal for help and is saved by the aforementioned Knuckles, who agrees to an alliance because he also wants Sonic (Ben Schwartz) dead and blames him for the extinction of his tribe. Back on Earth, Sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) are raising Sonic like an adopted son and planning to leave town for a friend’s wedding in Hawaii. But once they’re gone, perky fox Tails arrives to warn Sonic about Knuckles, before Robotnik returns with a new plan for world domination involving a reality-bending Master Emerald.

If you enjoyed the first Sonic, which was a surprisingly lightfooted and amusing family comedy that handled its characters with skill and told a diverting story with enough digital spectacle and Jim Carrey goofing around, Sonic 2 mostly continues in the same vein. But it’s not as strong because the addition of two new digital characters never feels required, as Tails could easily not be involved and one-note Knuckles steals too much of the limelight away from the more interesting Robotnik. And it’s a shame Sonic 2 doesn’t give Carrey enough opportunities to improvise or craft his own scenes around what he’s physically capable of, as now they feel more scripted than before—possibly because he’s more often interacting with a digital character and you can’t just let him fool around when there are complicated VFX shots to shoot correctly. Or maybe Carrey’s heart just wasn’t in this one as much and it was just an easy pay cheque, considering sequels have never really been his thing?

The humans in general have less to do this time around, which is a shame considering Marsden’s road trip with Sonic was one of the best things about the previous adventure and helped ground it. Here, Tom and Maddie are packaged off to Hawaii for the first part of the movie and it’s not as fun seeing Sonic and Tails getting into mischief in a Siberian bar together, as it was Sonic and Tom getting into a bar brawl. When the storylines collide and the action arrives in Hawaii, things do improve, but this story still mostly requires Marsden to stand around giving reaction shots for three CGI characters this time. It just gives the film a different feel when we lose the Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1987) appeal of humans interacting with ‘cartoons’ as much, meaning it becomes more of a purely animated movie with photorealistic backgrounds.

However, there are still some amusing moments and a general spirit to the whole endeavour that continues what made the 2020 work surprisingly well. The set-pieces are more ambitious in scale and design, with a James Bond-like snowboarding sequence down a mountain, an Indiana Jones-style bit of adventuring in an ancient temple, and even a climax that evokes jaeger of the type seen in Pacific Rim (2013) or Power Rangers (2017) which obviously feeds into Sega’s Japanese homeland too. There’s even some morals and life lessons here for the under-10s to subconsciously soak up, about sibling relationships, family, personal responsibility, what it means to be a hero, and the corrupting nature of revenge. And Sonic powering a speedboat with his feet.

USA JAPAN | 2022 | 122 MINUTES | 2.39:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH

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Blu-ray Special Features:

Paramount Pictures’ stacked Blu-ray does a fantastic job with the image quality, as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is incredibly detailed and clear with vivid colours and deep blacks. Hard to fault to any meaningful extent.

The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is also great with good bass levels and clarity to everything, although the balance across channels isn’t always perfect and there were fewer memorable overhead effects than I expected.

  • Audio Commentary. Director Jeff Fowler and Ben Schwartz (the voice of Sonic) discuss making the film.
  • Animated Short: Sonic Drone Home. A fun junkyard short lasting about five minutes.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes. There’s almost 20-minute of extra footage here, split up into sequences such as ‘Mushroom Planet Intro’, ‘Sonic Caught Sneaking Out’, ‘Getting Ready for Hawaii’, ‘Tails Meets Wade’, ‘Robotnik’s Fake Crowdfunding Scheme’, ‘Knuckles Learns the Meaning of Flying’, and ‘Wade Discovers Robotnik’s Secret Hideout’.
  • Bloopers. A few minutes of goofs and cockups.
  • Music Video. Kid Cudi’s “Stars in the Sky”.
  • Finding Your Team. A featurette about the cast working together with Jeff Fowler, the vocal performances, and model-making.
  • The Powerful Puncher: Knuckles. A look at the film’s new villain and his place in the video game franchise.
  • Rapid Fire Responses with Ben Schwartz. A ‘viral video’-type thing with the actor answering quick questions.
  • Robotnik Reimagined. A brief look at Jim Carrey’s role in the sequel.
  • A Sibling for Sonic: Tails. A look at the film’s new sidekick for Sonic and his place in the video game franchise.
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Cast & Crew

director: Jeff Fowler.
writers: Pat Casey, Josh Miller & John Whittington (story by Pat Casey & Josh Miller, based on ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ from Sega).
starring: James Marsen, Ben Schwartz (voice), Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Shemar Moore, Colleen O’Shaughnessey (voice), Lee Majdoub & Idris Elba (voice).