Sonic the Hedgehog 2
This sequel is a rushed affair that wisely leans on the strengths of the original
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) was one of the last films to enjoy a regular box office run before the COVID-19 shut-downs brought the cinematic world to a standstill. As such, many were not able to revel in the success story of Sonic as a videogame adaptation, becoming a sizeable financial hit as well as being of decent quality. Paramount, desperate for viable franchises as it falls behind in the IP race with the other studios, quickly brought back the original team to spit out a sequel, hopefully bookending the pandemic era for films.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022) follows our titular speedy hero (Ben Schwartz) as he is forced to face his nemesis Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) again. Only this time, both sides have new allies, from Sonic’s alien worlds. Robotnik has the strong Knuckles (Idris Elba) on his side, while Sonic is aided by the intelligent and flying Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey). Together they embark on a treasure-hunt for the all-powerful Master Emerald.
Jeff Fowler returns to direct this sequel after his success with the first film. The first Sonic film was largely successful in how it used a quirky IP character and placed it within a recognizable narrative structure: a road movie. Sonic 2 seems to throw that out the window for a more complicated and lore-heavy plot that starts taking itself a bit too seriously. One can clearly tell that Fowler was forced in a quick turn-around to craft a sequel, this is apparent in a rushed and disjointed story that could have used a couple more drafts. What starts out as a treasure-hunt around the globe, grounds to a halt in the second act at a hotel resort with the human characters. It was almost as if Paramount pulled the reins as it saw Fowler relying on too much action and CGI dollars. This dull and elongated second act then shifts into a very CGI heavy finale with all the predictable action and finale beats one might expect. Much of the scene transitions and plot points rely on coincidences that indicate either lazy writing, or more likely a rushed creative process.
Fowler, intelligently, leans into the strengths of the first film, such as the comedic prowess of Carrey and Schwartz, and tapers down the boring human characters. The additions of Tails and Knuckles, which could have felt like shameless fan service, are integrated rather smoothly into the story. Likewise, the voice acting is top-notch, with Elba as Knuckles finding the perfect ironic tone. Carrey was a standout with a restrained wildness in the first film, but becomes a loose cannon in this sequel. While Carrey is still able to garner some of the best laughs in the film, the rapid-fire energy of his performance teeters dangerously close to the obnoxious. Fowler, is incapable of reining in this manic energy even in the editing suite. Schwartz is solid voicing the lead role again, bringing his trademark energy and managing to deliver some truly bad puns with style.
In the end, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a sequel that feels rushed in its composition, but whose reliance on the original’s strengths help it weather its drearier aspects. For a harmless family night out, parents could face much worse fare.