Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is bigger and better than the original

Tails, Sonic’s flying sidekick, plays a big part in this sequel to the hit 2020 family adventure based on the classic videogame. As Liam Maguren writes, this respectably improved sequel makes the original look like a proof-of-concept.

You’ve got to give 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog one thing: their decision to change Sonic’s design after the poorly-received first trailer proved an inspired one. Though I’m unsure how much it helped its box office earnings, it at least showed the director Jeff Fowler and his team cared about delivering something fans of the SEGA mascot wanted to see on the big screen. They seem to have carried that attitude into making Sonic the Hedgehog 2, a respectably improved sequel that makes the original look like a proof-of-concept.

The story mashes up elements of the second and third games by introducing Sonic’s friend Tails, a tech genius fox, and foe Knuckles, a deadly-serious echidna with freakishly huge fists. They’re respectable additions to the film’s other two animated characters, Ben Schwartz’s Sonic and Jim Carrey’s Robotnik, and it’s particularly great to hear Collen O’Shanussy, who’s voiced Tails for years in the video games, reprise the role in this cinematic outing. My ears needed a little time to adjust to Idris Elba’s Knuckles, but his Drax-like bluntness becomes more welcome as the film’s silliness progresses.

As far as blockbuster entertainment goes, the increased budget helps this sequel a lot. There’s a lot more globe-trotting this time as Sonic and Tails try to beat Knuckles and Robotnik in finding the all-powerful chaos emerald. Jumping from a small American town to the Siberian mountains and a hidden underwater temple, it’s a well-realised upgrade from the original’s journey across a state highway, capped off by a beefy climax that makes the most of its source material.

That said, they don’t do the people of Siberia any favours, depicting the locals as uncivilised yahoos for the sake of one needlessly long joke. The punchline? A dance battle that marks Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as yet another family film strangling the life out of Mark Ronson’s 2014 hit Uptown Funk. It’s one of two moments that could’ve been ejected from the film.

James Marsden and Tika Sumpter return as Sonic’s parental figures Tom and Maddie, only to leave for Hawaiʻi in the opening ten minutes for a wedding. It initially feels like a blunt way to sideline these characters, but a plot twist ends up putting all the animated characters on the bench instead (Carrey included). While it’s not an awful scene, it does feel like a pointless diversion that stretches the running time beyond its means.

Almost as a counter-measure, there’s more Carrey this time and I love to see it. Now looking like a proper Robotnik with the ‘stache and red getup, his weird energy continues to help carve out this series’ slightly absurdist tone. When we’re talking about a film involving a blue space rodent with portal rings, it’s desperately needed, and wild Carrey-only insults like “dim-witted celestial skin tag” are the garnish for this bizarro world. And it doesn’t get weirder than his continuing bromance with obsessive underling Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub) whose reintroduction as a barista gave me the biggest laugh.

The film occasionally borders on Carrey overload (I did not need to see him do the floss when Sonic did that twice in the first film) but it reflects Fowler’s enthusiasm to deliver something bigger and better with Sonic 2. Sure, it might not do that with its Moral of the Day storytelling, but as a slab of family blockbuster entertainment, he’s succeeded.