To say that the first "Sonic the Hedgehog" film is the best video game movie of all-time might seem slight...after all, movies based on video games have not exactly had a great track record (only five of the 49 video game films ranked on RottenTomatoes have a "Fresh" rating, and even those are questionable choices). But it actually was a surprisingly delightful film, made even more saleable with the pitch-perfect casting choice of Jim Carrey as the evil Dr. Robotnik.
We all went into the first Sonic film with the lowest of low expectations...not just because it was another video game movie, but there was the whole backlash over how the original version of Sonic was rendered (when an image was released, fans revolted, and Paramount Pictures went back and redesigned Sonic as the version we have now). But it not only was a - dare I say - GOOD family adventure, with some heart to boot, it was a tremendous box office success, grossing nearly 320 million bucks worldwide and setting up the inevitable sequel, which we are getting now.
Sadly, all momentum that the first film created comes to a screeching, disappointing halt in "Sonic the Hedgehog 2." Instead of feeling like a real box office underdog - "the little hedgehog that could" - the sequel comes in full of itself, with an unearned confidence, and dying on the hill that somehow "more is more." At an incredibly baffling 2 hours and 2 minutes, a bevy of new, uninteresting characters and a some unfathomably lame subplots, "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" carries the weight of the franchise on its shoulders, and is crushed beneath the burden.
Voiced again by Ben Schwartz, Sonic is still the star of this adventure even though his screen-time is taken away be lesser beings...all characters that should be familiar to fans of the video game franchise that has sold nearly 100 million copies. When we last left off, Dr. Robotnik (Carrey) had crash-landed on "The Mushroom Planet" (a coy dig at Sonic's rival Mario's video game universe). But being the tech-genius that he is, he finds his way back to Earth with the help of Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba, phoning it in), who is like a red Sonic with super-strength. Sonic's video game sidekick, Tails (voiced by Colleen O'Shaughnessey, the only voice actor to reprise their role in the live-action film), shows up to warn Sonic of the impending danger.
Sonic is living it up in the absence of his "parents" from the first film, Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter), who have gone to Hawaii for the wedding of Maddie's sister, Rachel (Natasha Rothwell), whom you may remember as getting taped up to her couch and left there during the events of the first film. Rachel is expecting Tom to be on his best behavior given their past, and her new stud hubby-to-be, Randall (Shemar Moore), seems to be hiding some kind of secret.
Robotnik teams up with his old henchman, Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub), who had been waiting for his master's imminent return. Knuckles is in search of a powerful Emerald that he believes is the birthright of his species, and Robotnik agrees to help him for reasons of his own.
Look, no one is coming into a Sonic the Hedgehog movie expecting great things from the plot. But after the fun of the first film, it's a severe let-down to see where they decided to take us this time around.
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First off, neither Tails nor Knuckles add anything, and the main draw is still in the rivalry between Robotnik and Sonic. Jim Carrey makes this movie watchable for adults, giving it his all despite how his character has become less interesting. There are some early sequences with Sonic that fall FLAT (a montage of what seems to be a homage to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Home Alone" is particularly unfunny), and a compelling thread - about Sonic trying to use his powers to become a superhero a la Batman - is introduced and then abandoned.
Tails and Sonic go off on an adventure in the snowy mountains of Siberia, where they encounter a bar full of Russians who end up challenging them to a dance-off (inexplicably, to the Bruno Mars hit "Uptown Funk" no less).
A lot of this feels forced, even for a movie about a super-fast blue hedgehog, but it's the wedding subplot involving the human characters that seems like the worst atrocity. The character of Rachel sums up the overall problem with the movie: Here was a character who was funny and memorable in a limited role in the first film, so it appears that the filmmakers shamelessly wanted to stretch her character out. But more of Rachel is way less...and the "twist" involving her fiancé is remarkably dumb. This subplot, I guess, gives some of the human characters something to do while all of the CG characters are trying to save the world, but it's clear that the success of the first film seems to have caught the studio and filmmakers by surprise.
You want to make "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" a WAY better movie? Cut out the entirety of the wedding story, and the Siberian dance-off, and - BAM! - you're at a crisp 88 minutes instead of over two hours.
A mid-credit scene teases what might be next for the franchise, but if it's true that Jim Carrey is retiring from acting (a story that broke in the past few weeks), this series should just do the respectable thing and pull the plug.
It was fun while it lasted, but if "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" is any indication, the first film was an exception to the "all video game movies are terrible" moniker and not a trail-blazing new path...which is too bad, because if anybody is capable of blazing new paths to save the video game movie genre, you'd think Sonic would have been the perfect fit.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy.
Run Time: 2 hours 2 minutes.
Starring: James Marsden, Jim Carrey, Ben Schwartz (voice), Idris Elba (voice), Colleen O'Shaughnessey (voice), Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Lee Majdoub, Shemar Moore.
Directed by Jeff Fowler ("Sonic the Hedgehog").
"Sonic the Hedgehog 2" is in theaters on Friday, April 8th, 2022.
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