Sonic The Hedgehog 2 Review: An Overlong And Exhausting Sequel

The last two years being what they are, I had memory-holed the experience of watching "Sonic the Hedgehog" in the early, pre-COVID days of 2020. But, intrepid critic that I am, I re-read my review of the film, written for this very website, immediately after sitting through the sequel, arriving in theaters this Friday. Among the many adjectives I used in that review of the first adaptation of the beloved video-game character are "desperate" and "exhausting," and I will not leave you hanging in suspense when I tell you those words will come up again in this review too. Perhaps the best thing to say about "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" is that it is not demonstrably worse than its predecessor. Yet as it clocks in at an unwieldy two hours and expands its universe to include two more well-known characters from the video-game series, this sequel is as wearying and unfunny.

Sonic (voiced once again by the ever-energetic Ben Schwartz) is enjoying his time in Green Hills, though he spends more time than is appropriate doing a weak job of fighting crime in Seattle at night, talking about himself like he's the Christopher Nolan version of the Caped Crusader. (Just as its predecessor, this movie has an overabundance of pop-culture references that primarily serve as reminders of all the much more enjoyable films you could be watching instead.) His surrogate dad Tom (James Marsden) wishes Sonic would get himself some like-minded friends, which ends up happening when the dreaded Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) returns from his off-planet exile to cause more mayhem, now with the assistance of Knuckles the echidna (voiced by the overqualified Idris Elba). Sonic, meanwhile, gets a partner of his own in the form of Miles "Tails" Prower (Colleen O'Shaughnessy), an eager fox with two tails that function as Tails' own personal helicopter propellers. Sonic and Tails begin their history as a dynamic duo, fending off Robotnik and (initially) Knuckles from Siberia to the middle of the Hawaiian islands.

With much of the same creative team, including co-writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller, as well as director Jeff Fowler, returning for this sequel, "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" is as traditional a sequel as you can find: it's the same, but more of it. There's more CGI action, courtesy of Sonic and Tails and the much stronger and angrier Knuckles. There's more quipping, as Sonic continues to act like a family-friendly Deadpool, save for looking straight at the camera and breaking the fourth wall. And there's more cartoonish villainy, thanks to Carrey once again dropping reference after reference to things that primarily just adults will understand. Whether or not those references are funny is another matter. When Robotnik, at one point, references the odious comments from our former President after the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia (you know, the "very fine people on both sides" remark), it's hard not to ask a question that — well, what a coincidence — I asked in my review of the original: who is this movie for?

A movie that doesn't know when to quit

Based on the ad campaign, and the fact that Sonic is referred to (lovingly) as a kid, this is a family film. The various references, including more affable ones like Sonic nodding to the public beef between Vin Diesel and The Rock, are all for the parents in the crowd, and the video-game-style battles and MacGuffin-style chase for an all-powerful emerald are for kids. Yet some of the film's extended setpieces, like a dance fight in a Siberian saloon, are more inexplicable. The longest and least involving section occurs midway through, at a wedding between Tom's sister-in-law (Natasha Rothwell) and her buff, obnoxious new beau (Shemar Moore). Sonic and Tails only show up near the end — to explain the details would both take too long and be too goofy. If the target audience for this film is indeed children, I can only share that my son was at his most restless during this centerpiece sequence, one that strangely strands its most interesting, non-human characters.

The humans in the film fare pretty poorly, as was the case with the first one. Carrey — odd references aside — tries his damnedest again to liven up the proceedings with his constant shtick. At the very least, it remains more than a little depressing that Carrey has in the last five years appeared in two movies ... specifically, these two movies. He's as game as possible as the mustachioed Robotnik, but you can only create so much chemistry working opposite CGI. The same is true of James Marsden, about whom I said in my original review, "How the hell is it that, after his hilarious supporting role in 'Enchanted,' Marsden has been given roles like 'Straight man to a talking blue hedgehog?'" I suppose the good news is that we're getting an "Enchanted" sequel at the end of this year. Even as Tom feigns awkwardness as the sole white guest at his sister-in-law's wedding, Marsden is far more talented than this whole bloated IP nonsense. Schwartz, Elba, and O'Shaughnessy benefit from Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails being more interesting, or at least not being quite as dull as their human counterparts. 

"'Sonic the Hedgehog 2' is two hours long" is both a statement of fact and about as clear a sign of danger as possible. There is no good reason for this movie, or any movie about a fast-talking and fast-moving hedgehog, to be two hours long, especially when it feels closer to three hours long. If you enjoyed the original "Sonic the Hedgehog," take heart in the knowledge that the sequel tries to replicate its success and does so without feeling more maddening. My only hope with this repetitively exhausting and desperate sequel is that it'll be just as easy to forget. 

/Film Rating: 3 out of 10