Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Despite not being the biggest fan of 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog, I was optimistic for this second journey thanks to the end-credits stinger it left us with—Tails, Sonic’s two-tailed fox bestie, must deliver a crucial message! Emerging from a rotating ring vortex, Tails flew down, ready to embark on a brand-new journey. Now, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 smartly uses this cliffhanger to its benefit, though waiting at least twenty minutes into the film to recap it. For much of the first act, Sonic 2 was exactly the clunky middling comedy I had remembered the first time around. Eventually, it blossoms into a genuinely entertaining video game adaptation with clever action and quippy comedy in equal measure. 

Balance appears to have been restored to the human world after the evil Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) was banished to a self-proclaimed “piece of shiitake” mushroom planet. Armed with only a single blue quill and a planet overflowing with mushrooms rife for experimentation, Robotnik uses the quill’s power as a beacon to summon literally anyone who will help him escape. Out of a spinning vortex emerges an intimidating force with giant spiked hands: it’s Knuckles the Echidna (voiced by Idris Elba), the last of his clan. Meanwhile, Sonic (again voiced by Ben Schwartz) may live up in the mountains of Green Hills with father-figure Tom (James Marsden) and Tom’s girlfriend Maddie (Tika Sumpter) by day, but at night he moonlights as “Blue Justice.” Racing a trail of “reckless and irresponsible” energy in his attempts to save lives, Sonic has been finding it difficult to adjust to his newfound quiet family time. Harder still is staying honest with Tom.

Tom and Maddie are headed out to Rachel’s wedding in Hawaii, with “Sonic Air” as their host. Sonic opens a portal for them, resulting in a quick trip and leaving him as the “hedgehog of the house.” With great power comes great responsibility, as it quickly becomes obvious that Sonic’s greater interests lie in trashing Tom’s home, and having a great time doing it! When Robotnik and Knuckles show up to spoil Sonic’s fun, this sequel kicks into high gear. Tails makes an iconic first appearance, crashing hard into Knuckles with a cop car. The rousing audience reaction to the first of several crowd-pleasing moments tells me that Sonic 2 is already more successful at satiating its audience than Sony’s first attempt. With the help of Tails, Sonic must embrace his destiny, and step up as the new protector of the ancient emerald!

Robotnik and Knuckles must team up for mutual benefit. Knuckles is hunting for the legendary Master Emerald, which is said to have the power to turn thoughts into reality and is the ancient birthright of his people. Robotnik seeks revenge on Sonic, and secretly plots to manifest the “ultimate power” that is granted from the Master Emerald. Fans of the video games may remember this object as being a mysterious relic essential for the endgame, one that houses multiple chaos crystals. From the opening alone, the clever script (the first film’s writers, Pat Casey and Josh Miller, team up with The Lego Ninjago Movie and The Lego Batman Movie scribe Joh Whittington this time around) takes center stage in capturing the vibe of the video games with direct story and visual references. The team remembers the most minute of in-game details, and is sure to pepper them throughout for maximum impact.

Sonic’s hijinks are host to a bevy of product placement, chili dogs, fart jokes, and constant quips. Every word out of Sonic’s mouth is a punchline, some of which can feel a little outdated at times. I was surprised that a Snow Dogs joke made the cut—that film came out in 2002! What’s the target audience for that joke, especially in a movie with modern references such as Uber and The Winter Soldier? The character is incapable of having a conversation not comprised entirely of one-liners. In a way, this works to Sonic 2’s advantage, as the sheer breadth of the jokes charge at the viewer in a relentless speed. Not every comedic bit lands, but those that do leave quite a mark. Sonic himself looks spectacular, still shimmering with that coat of paint which granted the character fresh life after the botched original model for 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog. New characters Tails and Knuckles also feature in eye-popping, visually stunning depictions that remain faithful to their Sega system roots.

Opening the film with Jim Carrey’s solo unhinged Robotnik is certainly a choice that may turn off younger viewers, but as a Carrey fan, I was thrilled that he receives even more screentime this go round. If one can believe it, this is only Jim Carrey’s third sequel (after Ace Ventura and Dumb and Dumber, though technically fourth if one counts Kick-Ass 2) in his entire career. For anyone paying attention to entertainment news, it sounds like Doctor Robotnik could very well be one of Carrey’s final roles, as he claims to be retiring from acting. If this is how Carrey goes out, I will consider it going out with a ridiculous bang. Nobody can channel the pure manic energy of a character like Jim Carrey.

As far as a quality product, Sonic films still have a ways to go, but Sonic 2 is at least a committed big step in the right direction. At one point in the film, Robotnik spouts the line “simple-minded space trash,” and this quotation is a fitting descriptor for Sonic 2. At its best, the film delivers on the silly entertainment quota in spades: a Bridezilla subplot is hilarious, while the boss battles and Sonic’s pursuit in the race for the emerald seem to perfectly capture the gaming vibe. I wanted ample Jim Carrey, utilization of Tails that was representative of his relationship with Sonic, action-movie scale, and a few decent laughs, and boy did I get all four of these qualities. Be sure to stick around for an extra-special scene during the credits that will prove to be a tease equal to the original! 

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 blasts into theaters everywhere on Friday, April 8th.

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