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SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 Hits a High Score

After nearly being derailed by early fan backlash to its lead character design, Sonic the Hedgehog went on to  arguably become the final theatrical box office success before the COVID pandemic shuttered theaters for months, a cycle from which the business is only just beginning to recover. It was further hailed as an example of a decent video game-to-film adaptation, a genre that’s had the bar set at least six feet under by Hollywood in recent memory. As is customary, success breeds franchises and Sonic was no exception as the eagerly-awaited Sonic the Hedgehog 2 lands in a hungry post-covid theatrical marketplace.

Some time after finding a home with kindly sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter), displaced alien hedgehog Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is struggling to find his place in the world, being only marginally successful in the crime-fighting arena. Encouraged by Tom to take it easy as the couple heads to a family wedding in Hawaii, Sonic barely makes it one night as hedgehog-of-the-house before his former nemesis Dr. Robitnik (Jim Carrey) returns from his enforced isolation on the distant mushroom planet, now sporting a more game-friendly and merchanisable look.

But the quipping mastermind is not alone as he has brought along a new companion to aid in his revenge, Knuckles the Echidna (Idris Elba), a lone warrior who blames Sonic and his adoptive owl mother (long story) for the destruction of his tribe. But vengeance isn’t the only thing fueling this deadly duo’s journey. They are both questing to attain the Master Chaos Emerald, an all-power Macguffin capable of generating thoughts into matter to a degree that would make the Green Lantern’s ring jealous.

But Sonic isn’t alone either as a tech-savvy super-fan in the form of a flying fox, Miles “Tails” Prower (voiced by game regular Colleen O’Shaughnessy) lands on the scene to help Sonic beat the power hungry doctor and vengeance-fuelled Echidna to the ultimate prize. Warning: some weddings may be ruined in the process.

Sonic 2 starts strong, quickly endearing us once again to Scwartz’s fun-loving Sonic, who never loses our affection, even while dabbling in reckless (albeit PG-rated) endangerment. With a larger VFX budget (or at least less allocated to hasty redesign work), the film is able to focus less on the humans and more on fan favorites like Tails who lends himself more naturally to a team-up than Tom did in the first film. Meanwhile, Knuckles steals every scene he’s in with a winning dead-pan delivery contrasting nicely with the film’s overall sense of goofy fun.

The film curiously loses a little steam in its second act via a protracted wedding sequence that seems to be more interested in giving the human cast something to do rather than propelling the story forward. Some momentum is regained in the thrilling and fan-pleasing finale which featured a character upgrade that elicited a cheer from this reviewer (no spoilers!).

In an era that struggles to please both legacy fans and franchise newcomers, Sonic 2 puts its best feet forward and crosses the finish line with style, even with some bloated detours along the way. With two solid entries in its run, I eagerly await what the next entry of the Sonic film series has in store. Hopefully we all won’t have to suffer through a pandemic between movies this time.

8.5/10

 

 

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 lands in theaters everywhere on April 8

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