Dr Robotnik is back, and coming for Sonic the weekend he’s home alone…
“I don’t want to die like this! It’s derivative!” So says Dr Robotnik (Jim Carrey), as he and his temporary partner in crime are being chased down the stone tunnels of an ancient temple by a giant spike-covered ball, while other centuries-old booby traps assault them at every turn. Yes it’s very Indiana Jones, but it’s also funny, and it works.
It’s the performances of Carrey, Natasha Rothwell (a very welcome return as Maddie’s sister Rachel) and others, along with their ability to squeeze out any humour they can from lines not as great as that one, that lift this sequel to 2020’s fabulous Sonic The Hedgehog. The focus here on colourful, well-characterised anthropomorphic aliens Sonic, Knuckles (the last survivor of the Echidna tribe of fearless warriors) and Tails (a two-tailed fox) works really well. They, along with Robotnik, are what the younger segments of its target audience will surely enjoy most, not boring adults at a destination wedding.
Sonic 2 isn’t as witty as the first film, with some of the extraneous plotting a distraction; the pacing is also off. Luckily a definite slump (where I looked at my watch and wondered how there could be another 40 minutes of this) is followed by that temple sequence, which gives the film the oomph to make it through a highly enjoyable final third.
The message for children is that they shouldn’t strive to be a hero; when it’s the right time, heroism will find you. Sonic (Ben Schwartz) is spending his nights in the city trying to be a crimefighter (and going by the name “Blue Justice”), but is causing nearly as much havoc as he’s supposed to be fighting against. Adoptive dad Tom finds out and gives him the Wachowski family pep talk: that heroism is about being responsible for other people, and for now Sonic should enjoy being a kid until he’s needed. (Something many parents will be delighted to hear as the world, especially online, seems to be speeding up and taking our precious darlings with it.)
It’s a great message, to enjoy childish pursuits while he can, even if Tom and Maddie then decide to channel classic 1970s parenting by leaving Sonic on his own with the dog while they go away for the weekend.
Carrey is again a delightful villain for children, with Dr Robotnik both extremely powerful and eminently bumptious and mockable. His extravagant moustache is now so big it almost makes Hercule Poirot’s look like drawn-on bumfluff. If he returns for episode 3 I imagine it’ll have grown to the wingspan of a pterodactyl.
A lonely, plotting jailbird, at the start of the film Robotnik is stuck on Planet Mushroom. He manages to create a dimension portal, through which appears Knuckles (Idris Elba), who is searching for the Master Emerald: a giant gem that can give its owner the ability to turn thoughts into reality, and hence “the source of ultimate power”.
Robotnik needs Knuckles, who looks like a cross between Barry Gibb and Predator, to help him get off the planet. They both hate Sonic, and they both want the emerald.
Meanwhile Tom and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) travel via one of Sonic’s gold portal rings to Rachel’s wedding in Hawaii. Rothwell was the standout from the first film, and while the new script doesn’t do Rachel justice, her attempt later in the film to track down the jailed Tom and Sonic, and also serve retribution on her erstwhile fiancé, is extremely pleasing if not terribly original.
Robotnik and Knuckles pitch up at Tom’s house just as Hedgehog Home Alone-er Sonic and the dog are trashing the place, though at the last minute Sonic is saved not by his own smarts but by a new arrival: Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey), possessor of a smart brain and a fanboy obsession with Sonic. Their own trek to find the Master Emerald before Robotnik gets his hands on it is charming and funny, as Sonic learns about responsibility to others and Tails to not to always trust his own inventions.
Generally, the gags are less enjoyable than the set pieces, which even when they seem familiar are delivered with delightful joie de vivre. I liked Tails and Sonic’s interlude at the Siberian pub, Tails’ malfunctioning translator gadget, and that temple chase. The final showdown, between Robotnik’s Death Egg robot and Sonic and friends, is suitably large scale while still being accessible to little ones. The focus on team work when they have a common goal, initially between Tails and Sonic, then with the addition of their former enemy Knuckles, is a good message for children delivered with cheer, flair and spectacle (if over too long a run-time).
One of the joys of the Sonic films is that while they appeal to fans who’ve grown up with the games, they are still perfectly accessible if you haven’t. You also you don’t really need to have seen the first film before diving into this one, though it will make more sense if you have.
My 10 year old and his friends thoroughly enjoyed the movie (a couple of stage-whispered “how much longer is there!” comments notwithstanding), though afterwards they were more concerned with revisiting the first film. They didn’t understand the relevance of the mid-credits scene at the end of Sonic 2, and to be fair nor did I — Google is your friend, fellow middle-aged video game refuseniks. But the joy of these films is that they stand alone as family entertainment. Sonic 2 may be a little shakier in its construction than its predecessor, something I hope they’ll address with its successor. But it’s still worth a family watch, and may even entice you to introduce them to Raiders Of The Lost Ark afterwards…
Note: There is one mid-credits scene.
Watch the trailer for Sonic The Hedgehog 2 now: