Sonic The Hedgehog 2: A Little Slower But Still An Enjoyable Sequel

Sonic (Ben Schwartzman) matches against Knuckles (Idris Elba)

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is nostalgia galore to the point of a Sega Genesis manual literally being flashed at the screen. Running beyond the speed of light, Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is a little slower than its predecessor but ultimately accomplishes what it aims to do; make a cohesive fan service picture that longtime fans of the games can bring their kids to. Does the fan service entirely work? Mostly.

Nobody is paying money for STH2 without expecting to have their favorite elements from an over twenty-year franchise sprung to life with today’s advanced technology. In Idris Elba’s Knuckles voice, if pandering is all you seek, then pandered to you shall be. I find nothing wrong with STH2 stroking my memory since the film is a product of the past itself. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out video game-to-movie adaptations’ track records are abysmal. Television and documentaries are an entirely different story. The expectations I had coming into this film is the bare minimum. So I left feeling satisfied overall. Yet, I’m not racing anytime soon through a ring hoop to revisit Green Hills.

Like the era the Sonic Franchise was first created in, Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is very ’90s in its storytelling. Our protagonist teams up with his fellow furry teammate on his quest to stop the antagonists. The bad guy from the last film is back, and he’s made partners with another villain. Meanwhile, with the good guys, a talking animal who becomes family with his human compatriots is asked to face a task he must overcome while his human friends are on vacation. Movie number two has more characters and references, burying the number of callbacks the first film had in an avalanche of nostalgia. For better, more than worse, the additions to the cast help make the film shine.

Knuckles Helps Punch Up The Action

Knuckles flies into action
Knuckles (Idris Elba) brings chaos with him.

The thing that got me giddy about STH2 is the casting of Idris Elba. Aside from being 2021’s sexiest man alive, Idris’ baritone voice and all-around badassery made him the perfect candidate to play Knuckles. Being from another dimension, not acquainted with earth life like Sonic is, Knuckles often confuses simple concepts like fun, calling it “the fun.” Hearing a clueless Knuckles voiced by Elba gave me a few of the only genuine chuckles in the film. The humor is about as cheesy as the first film’s. Some people like intentionally forward jokes. Sonic throws quips about as fast as his red sneakers hit the ground. Mostly his musings didn’t tickle my funny bone, but they might do yours. If not for Sonic’s lovable persona, these films wouldn’t work as well as they do.

Sonic’s voice by Ben Schwartz gives the character a personality that he lacked in the games. In the films, Sonic’s a bouncy annoying kid with a heart of gold. In the games, he’s “edgy” or was supposed to be at the time when Sega was competing against Nintendo. Sega aimed at a young teenage crowd to beat Mario by creating a character who could outrace the Italian plumber. But Sonic didn’t have anything on a personal level to make the character stand as anything more than a mascot. I give these movies credit for keeping Sonic faithful to his character while making him layered.

Tales lacks takeoff

Tales Plain
Sonic (Ben Schwartz) and Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) square off against Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey)

The appearance of Tails could have been welcoming if I understood his motivation. The only information about him I can remember is that he’s trying to stop Knuckles from obtaining the Chaos Emerald. This glowing crystal gives one unlimited power by turning their thoughts into reality. There’s little reason to care for Tails other than sounding adorable through Colleen O’Shaughnessey’s voice contrasting the annoying children who voiced Tails in the video games. I know Tails is an inventor, providing the film with some of its best retro tech gags, but there’s no reason for him to exist in the plot. Knuckles, and Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik serve a purpose. Sadly the other characters who don’t service the story much are the humans, except for Jim Carrey, who’s a living cartoon character.

The Wachowskis are going to Hawaii for a much-needed vacation. With the house to himself, what could happen to Sonic in a couple of days? Egg-Man returning to earth to bring about mass destruction is what can happen. While Tom (James Marsden) along with his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) attend his sister-in-law Rachel’s (Natasha Rothwell) wedding, Sonic must save the world once again from the evil clutches of the maniacal Doctor. When our characters run back into the Wachowskis, the film comes to a screeching halt before gaining momentum again.

In Hawaii, Tom is informed by Rachel’s man-to-be to stay on her good side by not ruining her big day. You can guess what happens later. Returning to Hawaii halfway through the film, the audience is subjected to more of Natasha Rothwell’s unbearable screaming from the first film, but worse, for what stretches on for a very unwelcome amount of time. Like most sequels, SCH2 is longer than the original. I guess to flesh out more gags?

Bits of the humor in the film are consistently enjoyable enough for me to see through its intentional corn factor. However, some gags are thematically puzzling. Before going head to head in a dazzling dance-off, a group of Russians attempts to toss Sonic and Knuckles into a fire, deeming them monsters. Moments later, the heroic duo is heralded on the Russian’s shoulders after winning the dance competition. That seems a little unwarranted after almost brutally burning them to death!

Enough Energy To Work

Sonic charges up
Sonic (Ben Schwartz) learns how to hone his powers.

Slower than the original but still just as charming, STH2 is on equal grounds with the original, if only slightly inferior. The relationship built between Tom and Sonic is minimized in favor of more action over character. I’m no fool. I understand the film is made to sell toys, but so is The LEGO Movie, which far exceeded the bare minimum of what it had to do, which is selling a product. Sonic, from his inception, is a shallow commercial property. One that failed to beat Nintendo so became allies with them instead. Like The LEGO Movie, Sonic is a toy commercial with a soul. The only thing Sonic 2 lacks, unlike LEGO, is originality, but let’s be thankful these movies are enjoyable as they are.

Written by Mike Crowley

Mike Crowley is a full member of the Chicago Indie Critics. He periodically produces video content for and writes weekly film reviews for his publication You'll Probably Agree. He also writes content for Film Obsessive from time to time. You can follow him on Twitter, Tik Tok, and Instagram @ypareviews

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