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‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2’: Film Review

James Marsden, Jim Carrey and Tika Sumpter return for this sequel about the otherworldly, bright blue hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz).

Sega’s hugely successful video game and media franchise based on the extraterrestrial hedgehog known as Sonic for his supersonic speed arrived in theaters as a hybrid live-action/animated comedy-adventure in 2020.

Now looking to capture spring break crowds after Sonic the Hedgehog became the all-time highest-grossing video game movie, the sequel continues Sonic’s adventures on earth following his arrival from a distant planet and his fumbling attempts to befriend a couple living in Montana.

Overstuffed with frantic action and framed by Sonic’s wisecracking commentary, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will appeal to family audiences seeking holiday distractions even if it doesn’t break new ground elaborating the franchise’s sprawling universe of intersecting characters and plotlines.

The action picks up directly following the conclusion of the 2020 release as Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) settles in with his new buddies Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie Wachowski (Tika Sumpter) at their home in the town of Green Hills. Accustomed to a faster-paced lifestyle acquired on his intergalactic travels, Sonic soon begins sneaking out of the house late at night in search of adventure.

An opening sequence involving a high-speed chase and some very poor judgment lands Sonic in hot water with Tom and Maddie, temporarily sidelining him. He’s soon up to his usual hijinks, though, when they set aside their roles as surrogate parents for a trip to Hawaii to attend the wedding of Maddie’s sister Rachel (Natasha Rothwell), leaving Sonic home alone and unsupervised for two days.

Setting up Sonic’s domestic situation invests the action with an emotional arc that tracks his erratic and sometimes risky quest for heroic glory while Maddie and Tom attempt to nudge him toward more responsible behavior, telling him he’s really “still just a kid.” This evolving family dynamic may be relatable, but it’s rarely particularly persuasive, as Sonic’s increasingly extreme antics put him beyond the reach of any pretense of parental guidance, which Tom and Maddie effectively abdicate anyway by leaving town.

Their absence provides super-evil Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) the opportunity to track down Sonic and exact retribution for his humiliating banishment to a remote planet in the previous installment. This time, he’s teamed up with belligerent Knuckles (voice of Idris Elba), a red-quilled, porcupine-like echidna who’s come to earth searching for the Master Emerald, a gem with the potential to control the entire universe.

Knuckles has his own beef with Sonic, but the intrepid hedgehog gets some unexpected backup from Tails (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey). The pint-sized yellow fox with two tails idolizes Sonic so much that he’s instantly ready to sign on for a mission to locate the emerald and prevent Robotnik from exploiting the jewel to satisfy his maniacal power-lust.

Their globetrotting search for the green gem eventually leads them back to Hawaii, where they literally crash Rachel’s wedding, with Robotnik and Knuckles in close pursuit. The simplicity of the movie’s easily recognizable narrative structure allows the filmmakers to pile on a nearly incessant series of incidents that rapidly morph into major set pieces dominated by rapid cutting and jarring sound effects. These sequences sometimes underline the reliance on too much over-the-top cartoonish action, however, with borderline bonkers plot developments breathlessly deployed at a clip recalling the movie’s video-game origins.

Director Jeff Fowler, returning for the sequel, mines his enthusiasm for the Sonic games, but mostly resists any misguided inclination to mimic the franchise’s famously manic gameplay — with the exception of a few satisfying match-ups between Sonic and Knuckles or Dr. Robotnik and his menacing drone army.

As the evil scheming genius, Carrey relies on an array of facial tics (enhanced by an outsized mustache) and erratic body language characteristic of the expertly timed physical humor that he’s perfected over a series of similarly outlandish comedic roles. Meanwhile, Schwartz nails the animated hedgehog’s snarky, impudent attitude and unrestrained thirst for thrills, even if Sonic’s frequently frantic tone grows increasingly wearying.

Together they set a furious pace that Marsden and Sumpter attempt to match, but Tom and Maddie consistently return to emphasizing the importance of friends and family as a method to manage Sonic’s youthful impulses.  It’s a strategy that directly influences their unruly young charge, inspiring him to reach out to Tails and Knuckles with a similar gesture of acceptance.

And with dozens more characters and plotlines available in the Sonic universe, it’s likely they’ll be back again to pass along similar life lessons in their ceaseless search for adventure.

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