The Austin Chronicle

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Rated PG, 122 min. Directed by Jeff Fowler. Voices by Ben Schwartz, Colleen O’Shaughnessey, Idris Elba. Starring James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Shemar Moore.

REVIEWED By Trace Sauveur, Fri., April 8, 2022

The Sonic Cinematic Universe feels like the most successful outing the franchise has seen in a long time over the course of its bumpy life span. Plenty of aging generations have nostalgia for playing as the lightning-fast blue hero across 8-bit obstacle courses, but within the gaming world, it’s no secret that throughout the 2000s the Sonic games have had their fair share of stumbles. Though the first Sonic movie had its own hurdles (let us not forget the incredible horror show that was Sonic’s original design) and received mixed reviews, it was a financial hit and seems to have spawned something of a renewed interest in the chili-dog-eating hedgehog, at least on the silver screen.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2, appropriately, makes an attempt to craft an adventure more suited to the varied worlds and characters of the games. Whereas the first film stuck a character known for running very fast into a car for half the run time, Sonic (Schwartz) has a little more room to stretch his legs here. Director Jeff Fowler returns to herald the introduction of Tails (O’Shaughnessey, who has been the video game voice of Tails since 2014) as a new sidekick for Sonic: Together they have to stop the returning Dr. Robotnik (Carrey) and his own new sidekick, Knuckles (Elba), from reaching the hidden, powerful Master Emerald.

It’s all proper nonsense that in some ways lends itself to a more inspired, manic experience than the initial outing but in others is still held back by generic kids’ movie fluff. One thing it does have is a solid voice cast and an impressive rendering of CGI characters within real-world environments. Though I still think plopping Sonic and friends on Earth to hang out with James Marsden is one of the most boring approaches you could take to all the potential material at disposal, the visual effects are well-realized, even if the overall visual sense of the film is forgettable. Schwartz, Elba, and O’Shaughnessey are also, thankfully, all talented enough to overcome a lack of personality in the writing. Carrey, too, is having fun and brings his typical physicality and expressiveness to a Dr. Robotnik who, in an improvement over his first appearance, now has his trademark bald head and overzealous mustache.

The things that have not improved are the broad, repetitive pop culture references and dull subplots to inflate the run time, in this case for a movie that did not need to be inflated as the final product runs a wearisome 122 minutes. Everyone must have loved Sonic doing the floss dance before, so they let Carrey do it here. But don’t worry, you get to see Sonic do some dancing of his own as he and Tails team up for a dance battle set to “Uptown Funk,” everyone’s favorite song in the year 2022. There is a generous amount of time dedicated to a subplot about Marsden and Tika Sumpter attending a wedding in Hawaii – really making the most of everything possible with the Sonic franchise.

That said, Sonic 2, also much like its predecessor, most prominently takes up the space of being a vessel of largely inoffensive children’s fodder with enough thrown in there for adults to make the experience not completely mind-numbing. It’s colorful, there are some chuckles, and it’s a great solution for any parents that want their child to sit still for, I reiterate, an entire two hours. It just feels like Sonic and company are owed a little bit more than being merely tolerable.

Copyright © 2023 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.