'Sonic the Hedgehog 2' Review: Heartfelt Goofy Fun for Video Game and Movie Fans

Four Star Rating:
Starring: Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Idris Elba, Colleen O'Shaughnessey, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Shemar Moore, Lee Majdoub
Director: Jeff Fowler
Screenplay: Pat Casey, Josh Miller, John Whittington
Story by: Pat Casey, Josh Miller
Based on: Sonic the Hedgehog video game by Sega
Producers: Neal H. Moritz, Toby Ascher, Toru Nakahara, Hitoshi Okuna
Music by: Tom Holkenborg
Cinematographer: Brandon Torst
Editor: Jim May
Production Company: Sega Sammy Group, Original Film, Marza Animation Planet, Blur Studio
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Genre: Action/Family/Comedy/Adventure
Rated: PG (Ontario & US) - Action violence, rude humour, and mild language
Release Date: April 8, 2022 (US)/March 30, 2022 (France)/August 22, 2022 (Japan) 
Runtime: 122 minutes

I was nervous about watching 2019's Sonic the Hedgehog movie, because video games turned movies had a rather dubious reputation and sending an iconic beloved character out of his world to earth ala 1987's Masters of the Universe hasn't proven to be the secret ingredient to success. I went to see it at the theatre partly for The Movie Breakdown podcast, but mostly because my son Everett was skyrocketing to the moon excited to see it. I still remember him running like Sonic all the way to the theatre and jumping about in his seat as his hero raced across the big screen.

It was a joy sharing that movie with him, but it had the added thrill of actually being one of the first really good video game movie adaptations. It succeeded by striking a perfect balance of providing winks and Easter eggs from the video game while creating a fun buddy action comedy that appeals to both fans of the game and those that never picked up a controller. It was one of the pleasant surprises for me, though Everett always knew it would be awesome because it had one of his favourite video game characters ever.

He was even more excited to see the sequel in the theatre. To prepare for the event, he rewatched the movie with his sister Danika, who now is also all in on the Sonic fever. As is now the tradition, he ran all the way like Sonic to the theatre and couldn't sit still in his seat as he jumped around with excitement. This is what I like to call the 'kid factor' where a family or children's movie connects with me due to the energy and excitement of my kids loving the movie. I'm sure most parents can relate to it in some way. The factor was multiplied in a packed theatre of thrilled and ecstatic kids. You don't go opening night to a family movie if you hate loud background noise.

If you ask Everett, he will declare that not only is the sequel better than the original, but it will go down as a cinematic masterpiece that may need its own museum constructed to honour its golden legacy. But there is a strong chance that you may not completely trust the film criticism of a 10-year-old boy, but it is a good gauge if you're wondering if you should bring your own kid to see it.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 captures the good-hearted spirit, deft insertion of video game references, energetic but coherent special effects sequences and fun buddy comedy action dynamic that made the first one a success. This shouldn't be a shock as Director Joe Fowler returns along with screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller (along with John Whittington joining this time) proving they have cracked the code of crafting a story that feels true to the video game but with a story that races along on its own as well.

As a quick aside, isn't it cool that a sequel just has the appropriate sequential number attached rather than some generic meaningless phrase like Sonic the Hedgehog: The Reckoning of Time. I'm a simple man pleased by simple things, obviously.

This time around Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is now living with Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie Wachowski (Tika Sumpter) who he met and teamed up with in the original, but now, he is playing the role of their teenage son. Sonic aims to be a superhero, because they are so hot right now, and this leads to a fun action sequence of Sonic foiling some bank robbers while also leaving the city streets with septic issues. One of the movies great strengths is blending some spectacular adrenaline-pumping special-effects enhanced action moments while keeping up its sense of humour, wit and charm. Sonic's personality always shines through even when bouncing around off objects and battling giant robots.

The less than perfect capturing of the robbers leads to the now fatherly Tom to give Sonic advice of what is a true hero and the need to put others first while delivering a mantra that seems inspired by Uncle Ben. Parenting advice while fishing on the lake scene ends up being one the few moments between Tom and Sonic, which is a pity as their buddy pairing was one of the best parts of the original Instead, Marsden and Sumpter are relegated to a jarring wedding in Hawaii subplot that feels torn out of an old sitcom and may exist because the filmmakers decided the characters needed to be in the movie since they were in the first one. It slows down the pacing and detracts from the more appealing storyline.

The father and blue furry son heart to heart sets up the character arc for Sonic as he aspires to be a hero but needs to learn the importance of caring for others. This sets up the main story by introducing Sonic's latest partner for his adventure.

As was teased in the original movies' mid-credit scene, Tails (Colleen O'Shaughnessey) has arrived in search for Sonic to help him find the fabled movie MacGuffin in the form of a magical green emerald. Like many MacGuffins, it must be found in order to save the world. Of course, it is also desired by a freshly returned from Mushroom purgatory Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) who now has an ally in the super-powered and super-fast echidna, Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba), who for an added bonus also seeks revenge against our hero.

O'Shaughnessy and Schwartz have great natural playfulness and energetic exchanges with their voice work, and the incredible special effects team make both characters seem to have weight and are just as lively as any human character. Schwartz embodies what you want from Sonic, and brings the wit and coolness expected while also having a warmth and kindness. 

Carrey was an MVP in the original, and he shines once again as the evil Robotnik with a mix of menace along with his legendary comedic timing and manic energy. He is perfect casting as his reactions make it fun to see him foiled by Sonic and the kids cheer against him because of his devious plans, but he avoids being scary rather you laugh at his over-the-top persona. Elba is a great pairing with Carrey as his voice work as Knuckles delivers a humorous performance that sparks memories of Dave Bautista's Drax in Guardian of the Galaxy. He knows very little of Earth and takes everything far too serious and is a great comedic foil for Carrey's Robotnik.

In the age where a big tentpole seems to come out every week, we can't really be that dazzled by every big special-effects spectacle and grand action set piece. We've seen a million sky beams, big giant city destroying monstrosities and a villain that has the same powers as the protagonist but in a different colour. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 checks all those above boxes by cramming them in too. It is able to enhance many of the big special effects and CGI action by maintaining its charm, wit and kind-hearted energy throughout. The action is not just spectacle but moments for Sonic to grow and develop as a character, as the story isn't paused for the whamdoodle light show.

There are several fun sequences as Sonic and Tails race to find the emerald, including an elaborate maze sequence that even Everett figured out was homage (I liked it, so we use that word instead or rip-off) to Indiana Jones. The maze scenes not only have some great visual sequences, but it keeps up Sonic's wit and is a major moment of the character's growth. This old man's eyes and brain also appreciated that despite all the action scenes are whirlwind of colour and have a frenetic pace that it wasn't cut like a '90s music video rather it was easy to follow the action, and it all had a geography and purpose.

Everett would give this about hundred jumps in a seat, which I think equals to a billion stars out of four. This was also one of the first movies he got to experience with some of his friends and they all cheered and awed with all the Easter eggs and big moments. There was an eruption of cheers from them during the mid credit scene as it teases a beloved future character thus promises a third picture. If the hints for yet to be seen video game characters is as exciting for you as it was for my 10-year-old son, then you want to stick around for the mid credit scene.

The sequel is not as strong as the original, especially with a few subplots like the Hawaiian wedding and the investigation with Adam Pally's fumbling deputy sheriff Wade Whipple dragging it down, but when it is about the title character and his battles with his nemesis then it is packed with adventure, humour and most definitely fun. Plus, the movie is heartfelt with a kind message that includes the need to put others first and to seek understanding in order to heal relationships. The characters have real arc where they learn and grow. I wouldn't have predicted it, but my early 1990s love for the blue hedgehog has returned, and he has proven video game movies can be a blast.