Before Sonic the Hedgehog 2 started in the theater, I braced myself for what I feared would feel like an interminable trip to a loud, candy-colored, sticky-floored arcade. But nostalgia sells, and as soon as the gold rings from Sonic’s Sega game replaced the stars in the Paramount Pictures logo, I was hooked. I felt like a kid again, transported back to my living room in the 1990s, watching the blue hedgehog burst through barriers on my bulky box TV.
While it’s far from a great movie, Sonic 2 has enough to please kids, adults’ inner kids and their more mature tastes.
After the game-like credits, the nostalgia train keeps chugging along with a Terminator-esque setup that finds a bad, bizarro speed demon named Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba) traveling through space and time to kill Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz). Fortunately, Sonic gets his own Terminator in the form of a fox named Tails (voiced, as in the games, by Colleen O’Shaughnessey). In what may be his final appearance on screen, Jim Carrey returns in live-action as mad scientist Dr. Robotnik, who uses Knuckles in pursuit of an all-powerful emerald.
That’s about all you really need to know in terms of the plot. James Marsden and Tika Sumpter reprise their roles as Tom and Maddie Wachowski, a married couple that basically takes in Sonic as their son.
The charm of the film lies largely in Sonic’s antics. Whether throwing his own private foam party or using his alien powers in a dance-off, he’s a fun little guy. Along with writers Pat Casey, Josh Miller and John Whittington, Schwartz’s vocal performance gives Sonic a gee-whiz innocence. Sonic and Tails develop a friendship you can’t help but love unless you’re Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.
Just imagining a serious actor like Elba performing voiceover work for a Sonic the Hedgehog sequel is hilarious on its own. But his deadpan delivery is another one of the film’s strengths.
Carrey is about as amusing as a suburban dad hamming it up as a villain in a community theater production. He doesn’t really do anything we haven’t already seen in Batman Forever and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. His cartoonishly long handlebar mustache is funny, I guess. Look, Carrey’s just goofing around. If this is his last role (as the actor has hinted), that’s a shame.
Back to the film’s strengths: The CGI is surprisingly vivid and impressive, and the action scenes capture the colorful, zany energy of the video game. If you have to take your kids to a movie or you’re wanting to relive a part of your own childhood, you could do worse than Sonic 2. It’s a decent time at the movies. However, it does drag on quite a bit. During the climax, you’ll likely feel the way you did as a kid when you played video games for too long — nauseous, annoyed, in need of fresh air. I’m not pretending it’s not a cash-grab nostalgia fest, all right? I’m not sure I’ll even remember Sonic the Hedgehog 2 a year from now, but I had fun while it lasted.