Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will hit theaters on April 8, 2022.
When released in 2020, Sonic the Hedgehog had the distinction of being only the second actually good live-action video game adaptation after Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, but it certainly wasn’t reinventing the wheel. Instead, it was reminiscent of a time when kids’ movies were decidedly kid-friendly and unapologetically unpretentious. And if you were into it, like me, then you can rest assured that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 brings more of that same energy – a lot more! For better or worse, this suite feels bigger in every way. He may bite off a little more than he can chew, but for the most part it’s just as funny, charming, and heartfelt as the first film.
In fact, there are several aspects in which this sequel improves on its predecessor; in particular, how much more of Sega’s Sonic universe feels integrated. Sure, there were Easter eggs galore in the first one, but with the work of laying the groundwork for the series and figuring out how Sonic fits into this aloof world, director Jeff Fowler and the writers Pat Casey, Josh Miller and John Whittington are allowed to really go crazy with the work in game ratings – and they do. Of course, this is inherent in the fact that famous characters Tails and Knuckles join the Blue Blur in this go-around, and the film captures the spirit of these characters beautifully.
Every time the three anthropomorphic creatures are on screen, it’s a blast, which bodes well for the future of this burgeoning film franchise. Longtime Tails comedian Colleen O’Shaughnessey is reprising the role here for the big screen, which was a smart move; she brings all the sweetness and seriousness that the adorable fox needs. Tails’ relationship with Sonic (voiced again by Ben Schwartz, who remains an excellent cast) is also an emotional highlight and provides the hedgehog with admirable character development. Sonic may compare to Batman, but the “with great power comes great responsibility” angle of his story lines up much more with Peter Parker. The sequel really leans into the fact that this super-powered mammal is still just a kid, and good for him, with satisfying growth from the speedy blue hero.
As for our other furry friend, Idris Elba steps into Knuckles’ shoes, and yes, sure, that’s awesome. Is anyone surprised? He brings a certain gravity to the role, but also gets some of the funniest lines in the movie as the hilarious, serious echidna. He and Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik are perfect foils for each other as entertaining, mismatched allies. Speaking of which, if this is truly Carrey’s last role before retiring from acting, it seems fitting that this is probably the most Jim Carrey of all Jim Carrey performances. He gets even bigger as Robotnik continues to lose his marbles and also manages to be appropriately menacing at times. This is Carrey at his best.
Humans aside from Robotnik, however, don’t fare as well. Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s biggest flaw is that it doesn’t quite know how to juggle the previous movie’s characters and storyline gracefully as it ushers in its new players. Without going into too much plot detail, it starts by taking Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter) to Hawaii, and every time we cut them and their human drama, the movie falters. It’s only natural that they don’t want to just throw Sonic’s adoptive parents on the sidewalk – that would be even worse – but their story feels stuck in a way that doesn’t quite work. The silver lining is that Natasha Rothwell, as Maddie’s sister Rachel, gets a few very funny moments to shine in these scenes.
This also points to Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s other problem: its length. At two hours, it’s 20 minutes longer than its predecessor, which feels totally unnecessary. It’s such a blast in the first half, as it moves fast with colorful action while leaving room to build Sonic and Tails’ friendship (and Robotnik and Knuckles, uh, frenemyship), but starts to exceed his welcome in his second half. Yes, there’s a whole sonic cinematic universe to be established, but as a standalone entry it could have done all of that and ended 20 minutes earlier.
Yet the overall core of its message more than makes up for its shortcomings. Yes, we have seen the “power of friendship!” message over and over again in children’s movies, but Sonic the Hedgehog 2 really makes it work, especially in its warm, heartfelt, and well-deserved conclusion. This franchise is still finding its footing, but it’s still moving in the right direction. In short, sign me up straight for the Knuckles TV show and the sequels that movie sets up.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2: character posters