Based on the enduring Sega video game franchise about a speedy blue creature, “Sonic the Hedgehog” raced into theaters in early 2020.
A mix of live-action and digital animation, “Sonic” was a reasonably fun family-friendly adventure that benefited from a wonderful voice performance from Ben Schwartz as the heroic Sonic and generally enjoyable cartoonish shenanigans from Jim Carrey as his nemesis, the villainous Dr. Robotnik.
With “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” — in theaters this week — we get a sequel that is, of course, bigger. And, unfortunately, looonnnngeeerrrrr.
Did we mention it’s longer?
To be fair, the sequel clocks in at only 20 or so minutes more than its predecessor. However, when we’re talking about a flick that’s ultimately for kids, that can feel like an eternity — both for squirmy little ones and the adults who must sit through it with them.
To be clear, though, “Sonic” the Second isn’t all bad. The always-hilarious Schwartz is as appealing as ever, and there’s plenty here for the little ones to enjoy. That said, Carrey’s over-the-top antics don’t feel so fresh this time around, and the story is weighed down by all its moving parts.
First, we catch up with Robotnik, stranded for nearly 250 days on a mushroom planet far from Earth, where he’s having a tough time perfecting a mushroom coffee as he plans an exodus that will lead to him kicking “buttocus.”
His way off the “shitake planet” and back to Earth comes thanks to a visit from Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba of “Zootopia”), the last of a tribe of warriors known as the Echidna. Knuckles is searching for something powerful on Earth known as the Master Emerald, believing Sonic may be the key to finding it. In exchange for a ride to Earth, Robotnik promises to help him get it, all the while scheming to obtain the giant jewel for himself.
Back on Earth, young Sonic is yearning for adventure. At night, he’s been sneaking out of his room in the home of the Wachowskis, Tom (James Marsden, “The Boss Baby: Family Business”) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter, “The Nomads”), in sleepy Green Hills to fight crime in the big city as Blue Justice. His work as a superhero leads to, shall we say, mixed results.
Tom knows what’s up and isn’t happy that Sonic, however well-intentioned, has been damaging city property and putting innocent folks in danger while trying to stop the bad guys.
“You’re supposed to be my friend,” a defiant Sonic tells him. “Stop trying to be my dad.”
But more dad-ing Tom does, telling his pseudo son that his moment will come.
Sonic promises to stay around the house and behave as Tom and Maddie travel to Hawaii for the wedding of her sister, Rachel (Natasha Rothwell, “The White Lotus”). However, he’s visited by a faraway superfan with a knack for invention in Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey), a two-tailed fox, who warns him about Knuckles.
Sonic and Tails, who can use his tails to fly like a helicopter, go on the run from Knuckles and Robotnik — now sans the hair on top of his head but more mustachioed than ever — while Tom tries to win over Rachel following the events of the previous adventure.
Alliances change (and Tom may, in fact, help ruin a certain wedding) as the bloated romp rolls along to its seemingly endless climactic battle with a powered-up Robotnik in Green Hills.
Given that Paramount Pictures brought the filmmaking band back together, it’s disappointing that director Jeff Fowler and writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller, who share the story-by credit, and John Whittington can’t quite recapture their winning formula from the first effort. For an adventure with an incredibly fast protagonist, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” moves pretty slowly at times.
To be sure, though, it has its moments, many in the form of wonderfully delivered quips by Schwartz (“The Afterparty,” “Space Force”). Schwartz somehow makes Sonic cocky and endearing at the same time.
Plus, the friendship Sonic builds with Tails — voiced nicely by O’Shaughnessey, reprising her role from the game series — is appealing, as is the bond that eventually develops with the rough-around-the-edges Knuckles.
And regardless of how obligatory it is, the exploration of the father-son dynamic between Sonic and the man he still calls “Donut Lord” is fairly heartwarming stuff.
In the movie’s production notes, producer Toby Ascher speaks of efforts to create “a Sonic cinematic universe,” because, we can only assume, the world has too few cinematic universes at this point.
Well, guys, if we are to see more of Blue Justice and his buddies, a little less may prove to be a bit more next time.
Meszoros writes for the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio.