One of the best things about the first Sonic the Hedgehog film is it has its own personality. Sure, it features the blue blur you know and love, but putting him on Earth in the real world puts a new spin (pun intended) on the franchise. Unlike Sonic ’06, anthropomorphic animals and humans together somehow make sense.
Yet where the first put the hedgehog into the real world, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 puts the video game back into the film, its plot now hinging on entire setpieces that honour the game series. There’s a water-logged labyrinth! Snowboarding! The Tornado biplane! This is a film as much for the adult fans to pick apart as it is for kids to laugh at the silliness.
Story-wise this sequel follows directly from the first film, with Sonic (Ben Schwartz) settling into life in the US town of Green Hills with surrogate dad Tom (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Sonic is something of an unruly teen, sneaking out to fight crime at night like a spiky Batman in a bid to use his speedy powers for good.
Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) soon returns though, having been stranded on a mushroom planet (a nod to Mushroom Hill Zone) in one of the most disgusting opening sequences for anyone who dislikes fungi. He joins forces with Knuckles (Idris Elba), aka “Clifford the big red rage monster”, to capture the Master Emerald and use its energy for his latest dastardly plan to take over the world.
That means Sonic will need to team up with his cute and naive secret fan Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) and learn all about being a hero, responsibility, and friendship – this is primarily a kids’ film after all.
Beyond that, though, director Jeff Fowler has injected the sequel with a large dose of… Sonic. The human subplot mostly takes a backseat in favour of major references from throughout the series; more than anything it’s an excuse to ring jump through the series from Sonic 3 & Knuckles to Sonic Heroes and more.
There are more subtle references too, like Sonic sucking up a bubble while underwater, the Mean Bean coffee shop, a Mega Drive operating manual, or a dance sequence that has Sonic’s pose from the Sonic Adventure box art, plus plenty more beyond that. And where Carrey’s Robotnik was previously a (somewhat) believable Earth scientist, now he’s gone full cartoon megalomaniac villain.
The flip side is the human story, that mostly concerns Marsden’s bland and unlucky Tom attempting to appease Maddie’s bridezilla sister Rachel (a scene-stealing turn from comedian Natasha Rothwell). It’s the weaker part of the film that interrupts Sonic’s adventuring with tongue in cheek tomfoolery, but the predominantly Black cast are clearly having a blast.
As for the Sonic characters, Jim Carrey does a great job as Jim Carrey, which luckily is fitting for Robotnik, while the sexy-voice Idris Elba gives gravitas as Knuckles that’s comically undermined. The higher quality animation compared with the first film ensures Sonic himself looks better than before, and remains likeable despite being a jocular brat. And somehow Tails is a cute companion rather than a burden.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a lot of fun then and, just like the game series did, it improves on its debut by adding in more of the Sonic universe – something that’s only going to continue as the series expands. It’s silly popcorn (or chilli dog) entertainment for the family that’s hardly award-winning, but even fans from the Mega Drive days will find an emerald in the rough.
Oh and make sure you stay until after the credits for an extra surprise…
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is released in cinemas on 1st April.