Video game adaptations and live-action/computer-generated (CG) hybrids rarely get much love, and for good reason. Video game movies, dating back to the live-action “Super Mario Brothers: The Movie,” have left a lot to be desired. CG hybrid films like “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and “Garfield: The Movie” have typically appealed to the lowest common denominator with characters that are adorable in 2D animation but instead look like soggy homunculi with teeth that could devour human flesh as if it was a puff pastry.
The first “Sonic the Hedgehog” film, released just prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, looked like it was speeding down that route with the infamous reveal of its teaser trailer in April 2019, but after a five-month delay and a much-needed facelift for its titular character, it hit theaters and was a really fun trip to the multiplex.
However, looking at the history of Hollywood follow-ups, a lot of sequels tend to fall short of their predecessors. So being a sequel to a live-action/CG hybrid adaptation of a video game series, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” had the odds stacked against it in a pretty significant way.
But it is charming as all hell.
Jim Carrey is a delight as the hilariously over-the-top Dr. Robotnik. Ben Schwartz is an absolutely inspired choice to voice the blue blur and the ever-charming (but admittedly unnecessary) James Marsden holds his own comedically with the two as Tom, all making for a charming, inoffensive family film.
While the film struggles in a handful of ways, such as a bloated runtime and a somewhat sloppy screenplay, Sonic’s second soirée on the silver screen doubles down on what made the first film as fun as it was.
It trimmed a lot of the weaker elements, such as relegating Marsden’s character to a much more secondary role and adding fantastical elements into the fray, such as the introduction of more anthropomorphic animal characters.
Idris Elba joins the cast as the stoically hilarious warrior Echidna Knuckles, and veteran voice actress Colleen O’Shaughnessey enters as the adorable, gadget-wielding fox, Tails, nicknamed so for his two tails that allow him to fly.
My expectations for the film’s comedy were pretty low, seeing as the movie is aimed primarily toward seven to 12-year-old boys. But in line with the rest of the film’s pleasant surprises, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” manages to mostly avoid lowbrow fart humor. Instead opting for meta-humor and physical comedy in line with the likes of “Looney Tunes” and a PG-rated “Deadpool.”
While “Sonic” never comes close to the hilarious highs of those works, it still managed to get some surprisingly hearty laughs out of me at times.
As someone who is pretty much entirely unfamiliar with the lore of Sonic the Hedgehog, there were certain moments in the film I felt would probably be epic to fans of the games, but for myself, who has never gotten past Green Hill Zone (the first level), I found those “epic” reveals anti-climactic and even downright confusing at times.
Then there’s the issue of the film’s length. For a film about a speedster, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” comes to a grinding halt on several occasions, for such diversions as a subplot involving Sonic’s adoptive father’s wife’s sister’s wedding, as well as a Siberian dance battle set to “Uptown Funk,” a song that after eight years is starting to overstay its welcome in the pop culture sphere. While none of these are inherently bad, they leave the film feeling too long at two hours and change, in comparison to the first film’s lean 99 minutes.
The film culminates in a third-act battle with all the fun and spectacle you’d expect from a big-budget action-comedy, but the road is a little longer than you may like and has one too many detours.
But overall, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is just as good as its predecessor, improving in some areas and faltering in others. Carrey’s flamboyant physicality is on full display in ways we haven’t seen in far too long. And the humor, if childish at times, is sharp as a knife, with the quickness of its wit surpassed only by the super-speed of the eponymous hedgehog. This makes “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” worth the price of admission if all you’re looking for is a cute diversion with some big laughs.