Sonic the Hedgehog 2
It's the second film focusing on the speedy video game character, but this swift-to-cinemas sequel couldn’t feel like more of a drag.
March 31, 2022
It was true in the 90s, and it remains that way now: when Jim Carrey lets loose, thrusting the entire might of his OTT comedic powers onto the silver screen, it's an unparalleled sight to behold. It doesn't always work, and he's a spectacular actor when putting in a toned-down or even serious performance — see: The Truman Show, The Majestic, I Love You Phillip Morris and his best work ever, the sublime Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — but there's a reason that the Ace Venture flicks, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber were some of the biggest movies made three decades back. Carrey is now a rarity in cinemas, but one franchise has been reminding viewers what his full-throttle comic efforts look like. Sadly, he's also the best thing about the resulting films, even if they're hardly his finest work. That was accurate in 2020's Sonic the Hedgehog, and it's the same of sequel Sonic the Hedgehog 2 — which once again focuses on the speedy video game character but couldn't feel like more of a drag.
The first Sonic movie established its namesake's life on earth, as well as his reason for being here. Accordingly, the blue-hued planet-hopping hedgehog (voiced by The Afterparty's Ben Schwartz) already made friends with small-town sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden, The Stand). He already upended the Montana resident's life, too, including Tom's plans to move to San Francisco with his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter, Mixed-ish). And, as well as eventually becoming a loveable member of the Wachowski family, Sonic also wreaked havoc with his rapid pace, and earned the wrath of the evil Dr Robotnik (Carrey, Kidding) in the process. More of the same occurs this time around, with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 taking a more-is-more approach. There's a wedding to ruin, magic gems to find and revenge on the part of Robotnik. He's teamed up with super-strong echidna Knuckles (voiced by The Harder They Fall's Idris Elba), in fact, while Sonic gets help from smart-but-shy fox Tails (voice-acting veteran Colleen O'Shaughnessey).
Gone are the days when an animated critter's teeth caused internet mania. If that sentence makes sense to you, then you not only watched the first Sonic the Hedgehog — you also saw the chatter that erupted when its initial trailer dropped and the fast-running creature's humanised gnashers looked oh-so-disturbing. Cue a clean-up job that couldn't fix the abysmal movie itself, and an all-ages-friendly flick that still made such a ridiculous amount of money (almost $320 million worldwide) that this follow-up was inevitable. The fact that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 arrives a mere two years later does indeed smack of a rush job, and the end product feels that way from start to finish. That isn't the only task this swift second outing is keen to set up, with bringing in fellow Sega characters Knuckles and Tails the first step to making a Sonic Cinematic Universe.
Yes, with Morbius reaching theatres on the exact same day as Sonic the Hedgehog 2, it's an ace time for sprawling start-up franchises sparked by a quest for cash rather than making great cinema — an ace time for the folks collecting the money, that is, but not for audiences. Both otherwise unrelated movies are flimsy, bland and woefully by-the-numbers, and seem to care little that they visibly look terrible thanks to unconvincing CGI. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 also falls victim to one of the worst traits seen in family-appropriate pictures: being happy to exist purely as a distraction. That means pointless needle drops that shoehorn in pop hits for no reason other than to give kids a recognisable soundtrack to grab their attention, and an exhausting need to whizz from scene to scene (and plot point to plot point) as if the film itself is suffering a sugar rush. Also covered: unnecessary pop-culture references, including inexplicably name-dropping Vin Diesel and The Rock, and also nodding to all things Indiana Jones.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2's fondness for dashing through its sequences and setpieces like it's racing against a clock could be seen as a simple case of the film endeavouring to emulate its protagonist — but it also runs for over two hours, so truly delivering a turbo whirlwind isn't on returning director Jeff Fowler's mind. Rather, the feature seems to flit by at a breakneck pace so that nothing could possibly linger, which is one of its few attempted gifts to viewers. The other is still Carrey, although he can't carry the movie this time around. To be specific, he doesn't appear to want to. He also seems to be leaning heavier on easy gimmickry rather than genuine goofiness, but he's happily still in anarchic mode. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 definitely can't match him, though, despite zipping as much chaos across the screen as it can (and as hurriedly as can).
Try as it might, the film doesn't make anyone forget its inane Hawaiian wedding scenes, which earn far too much focus because they shouldn't receive any. In the year 2022, second-time Sonic writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller — plus newcomer John Whittington (The Lego Ninjago Movie) — somehow thought it was okay to rely upon bridezilla tropes in the name of supposed humour, and the result is unfunny and lazy. This narrative choice also gives The White Lotus' Natasha Rothwell a thankless part, but then no flesh-and-blood actor who's playing it straight fares well here. That leaves Carrey, and also the voice work behind the movie's primary colour-toned animated creatures. Schwartz still sounds as if he's doing Parks and Recreation's Jean-Ralphio right down to a "the woooorst" joke, but Elba's line readings at least raise a smile by being so self-serious.
Throw in an over-emphasised message about the importance of family like this is a stealth Fast and Furious flick — yes, clearly the title would fit, and there's also that Vin Diesel and The Rock mention — and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 just keeps getting more and more derivative. It knows it, actually. It even makes a gag about it. But as with almost everything it serves up, throwing things at the screen like blazes and being well-aware you're doing it doesn't make for an entertaining, average or even passable-enough time at the movies.
Image: courtesy Paramount Pictures and Sega of America.