You know, that recent movie RRR totally spoiled me. Now every American studio movie pales in comparison. I know I shouldn’t be comparing an East Indian movie to an American movie made for five year olds, but SONIC THE HEDGEHOG actually has a “Dance Battle” scene involving animated characters against human ones, and since RRR has a now-viral dance off sequence that blows everything else out of the water and this SONIC dares to suggest that the only movie in comparison to this is Channing Tatum in the STEP UP series…yeah, no dice with me. I’m spoiled.
But of course, coming back to reality a bit, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 is a highly anticipated sequel but not for the reason you may think. When the first one came out it was the innocent time of February 2020, a much more simple part of our lives right before a major world change looming over us. The movie had a bit of cult status after that, and in addition was somewhat of a critical and audience success thanks to streaming services and its digital release. To me, it was a forgettable lark mostly because I am more interested in the speed and movement of our blue, spinning, chili-dog loving hero and his running around, rather than making wise-cracks and talking too much which studio heads felt younger audiences wanted to see more of.
This sequel still has a lot of the same issues, but add in Sonic and Knuckles and one cringe-inducing Tails (more on that later) for good measure. Sonic has found a family in the form of Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter) and living well after sending Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to that bizarre mushroom planet at the end of the first picture. Just when you think Robotnik will be there forever, in comes Knuckles (voice of Idris Elba, of all people) who is on the hunt for Sonic; just hearing the name Knuckles made me unearth my Sonic Classics collection PS3 game as it was one of my favourite games in my formative years.
That said, perhaps it’s wanting to just play the video games again that is a double-edged sword. SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 still has so many sequences of Sonic just standing around and cracking jokes again. I know that the movies have to evolve further than the video games and create something new, sure, yet this attempt just isn’t for me, unfortunately. There’s a way to do this that can be smart, creative and meet the demands of critics and audiences and yet I feel the filmmakers just chose the easy way out. It’s exactly what you want like in a McDonalds promotion meal, supersized for added sugar and fat.
I feel like there are too many speaking parts here, and all of them are trying too hard to make us laugh but none of them do. A bizarre, over-lit wedding subplot drags the movie down along with far too many characters around Marsden thinking they are funny. There are even gaps in logic even too far for a movie like this; a small town coffee shop is used as a cover for Robotnik, yet a character is able to see through a window where the blinds aren’t even down that far. Rookie mistake!
To make matters worse, I never felt the voice work of our animated leads really worked and most of it felt like actors standing in a room somewhere reading lines of dialogue. Ben Schwartz repeats the same silly tone here and it’s still very dull, and I didn’t even care for Elba where it didn’t match with Knuckles at all. To make things worse, there’s a legit groan-inducing piece of voice work by Colleen O’Shaughnessy, who voices Tails. As someone who loves animated movies and the voice work within, I’m pretty quick to pick up on a performance where someone just walked into the booth, was given a script and told to just read lines out loud with zero context. Tails has no personality nor seems to be reacting to anything, and every time he speaks it’s seriously as if they just picked a kid up off the street to read lines.
Even with all of my setbacks, I will admit there are a few moments of fun here. A final battle featuring a Robotnik and all of our animated leads has a few fun wide shots and angles and I admire the VFX work that went into a scene that overall I didn’t care too much about. I also thought there was some visual fun in a snowboarding sequence that leads to a wedding in Hawaii in a somewhat amusing way. I can also tell a lot of the cast WAS having a good time with making this movie.
Sadly, these moments are very few and far between as I know there can be a lot more speed and movement yet something was just holding everyone back. Who knows, maybe it’s just me. Sometimes an all-purpose studio movie works and I go along with it. Every movie I evaluate is a case-by-case basis and yet hearing the reactions of the audience at my screening, massively over-laughing at every joke and antic, I sunk a little lower in my seat. What if this is as good as it gets?
SONIC 2 might appeal to little kids who don’t really know any better, who want flashy graphics and colourful images along with easily digestible humour. It’s the type of movie that shows the Space Needle in Seattle and then five seconds later a “Seattle” title card comes on screen in gigantic letters, just in case you didn’t know where you were. This is the perfect example of an easy, uncomplicated picture that will appeal to people who want a little less. Sadly the filmmakers didn’t think to have fun here and bring us along for the ride, rather to just give us the lather, rinse, repeat experience.
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 is now playing in theatres.
Boring Tech Notes: I saw this screening as a paid-advance screening ahead of its release, complete with a “pre-show” which featured clips from the movie I was about to see, and a plea not to spoil the movie for others. It is common knowledge to not spoil any movie, ever, and there really isn’t that much content here that needs to be protected. But what’s worse is seeing clips from the movie that I am about to watch 30 seconds later. Seriously studios, stop doing this as this breaks the moviegoing experience.