Given that it’s based on a video game I never played, loaded with SEGA references I’ll never get, and populated with characters I only mildly care about, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 works surprisingly well. That’s because it stocks just enough 90s nostalgia and pop culture riffs to keep adults busy, while the CGI sound and fury mollifies the kids. It feels weird to slap a three star review on each of these Sonic movies, just because they didn’t suck as badly as I’d feared. Oh well, C’s get degrees, they say. In that case, Sonic 2 proudly skates by on its minimum GPA.
The story begins soon after Sonic Mach 1. Ordinarily, I’d say you need to back up and catch the first installment, but let’s be honest: This is a movie built around a blue hedgehog and his inter-dimensional rings. Jump on in wherever you like. Basically, Sonic (voice of Ben Schwartz) has settled down with his new human family. Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter) do their best to reign in their little blue speed demon, while also realizing he might have some greater destiny.
Meanwhile, on a distant planet of spores, molds, and fungus, the exiled Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) plots a conquering return to his home world. That evil plan gets a jolt with the arrival of Knuckles (voice of Idris Elba), a fierce echidna warrior in search of a rare artifact. Knuckles also harbors a grudge against Sonic’s owl caregivers, making him the enemy of Robotnik’s enemy. They form a shaky alliance and head toward Earth, although it soon becomes apparent their moral compasses are pointing in different directions.
Back on our world, Sonic gains a new buddy in the form of Tails (voice of Colleen O’Shaughnessy). He’s an enterprising little fox who can spin his tails like helicopter blades and deploys illusions and gadgetry on opponents. As Tom and Maddie head to Hawaii for the wedding of her sister, Sonic and Tails sneak away to battle Robotnik and Knuckles for the fate of the planet.
So, yeah–nothing about this movie is rocket science. In fact, much of it would be pretty humdrum without a disarming sense of humor. Thankfully, writers Pat Casey, Josh Miller, and John Whittington keep things lively with an onslaught of cute little jokes and movie references. (Keep your ears open for a sly homage to Randy Newman’s score for The Natural.)
The live action cast responds with just the right vibe. Marsden makes the perfect sitcom dad–he’s all gentle wisdom and knowing smiles. In fact, he’s so likable, I don’t buy that another character in this film can’t stand him. Marsden’s one of those guys you want to invite over for Pictionary and Chex Mix. Dr. Robitnik hails from the Inspector Gadget School of Villainy, so it’s only appropriate the filmmakers cast the hammiest actor who lives and breathes to play him. Carrey doesn’t so much chew the scenery as feast on it; he even has a plump mustache to twiddle. His fearless overacting greatly elevates the movie.
All this adds up to a sequel that delivers 100 minutes of competent entertainment. (Yes, the movie is 122 minutes long, so take from that what you will.). Will you remember anything about Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in a few months? Probably not. But it also won’t make you want to chuck your flatscreen into the nearest ravine. That’s not the coziest compliment I’ve ever paid something, but there we are. Sometimes, we just have to make do with good enough.
122 min. PG. Paramount Plus.