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A lifelong Sonic fan’s review of ‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2’

2022 is, without a doubt, the best year to be a Sonic the Hedgehog fan since at least 2011, if not earlier. The second feature film is out now with a third already confirmed, two new TV series are on the way, Jim Carrey himself wrote a prequel comic set in the universe of the movies and thanks to a new head writer and ambitious vision, fans are actively excited for two upcoming game releases for the first time in over a decade. As someone who has been a Sonic fan since her cringey middle school years, it’s refreshing to see one of the most notoriously awful fanbases in gaming so full of positivity and love in the past few months. 

 

Of course, a significant portion of that positivity has been fueled by the latest film in the franchise, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” released on April 8. Every trailer, poster and scrap of information released about the film has garnered massive amounts of hype, from the casting of Idris Elba as Knuckles to a poster paying homage to the iconic box art for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (the game), which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. They even invited some prominent Sonic content creators to the film’s premiere, from the YouTubers I watched religiously at age 11 to the Twitch streamers I catch every night at age 21.

 

Based on that information, it likely won’t come as a surprise that “Sonic 2” doesn’t cast its net as wide as the first film in terms of the audience it wants to appeal to. I’m sure your average eight-to-10-year-old would at least enjoy it, and the kids in my theater definitely did. But make no mistake: Its target audience is Sonic fans, and seeing it in a theater full of them was easily the most fun I’ve had all year. We cheered at every new character introduction and stealth reference, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to chase the high of the theater exploding with energy at the post-credits reveal.  

 

Despite my personal biases, I will admit that “Sonic 2” isn’t perfect. The humor can be more than a little cringey at times, and the underlying message is fairly cheesy, which is about on par with other talking-animal kids’ films. The film also struggles to balance the main Sonic-Robotnik conflict with the original human characters, especially in the first half, and there’s one scene involving a wedding that goes on much longer than it needed to. Finally, as nitpicky as it is, I wish they had included more Sonic-esque music instead of a generic orchestral score, especially since the music is one of the most iconic parts of the series.

 

But at the end of the day, this film is very clearly a love letter to the games it was based on. It is chock-full of references to both the most popular Sonic games and the most obscure, from larger plot points and character arcs to audio easter eggs to blink-and-you’ll-miss-it details to even Sonic-specific meme references. Tails and Knuckles in particular were written better in this film than they have been in the games for more than 20 years, and the same is true for Sonic and Tails’ friendship. The crew did their research, but they were also Sonic fans going in, and it shows. 

 

At the same time, the film isn’t a one-to-one adaptation of the games, either. It combines storylines from “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles” along with its own original plot, mostly focusing on the relationship between Sonic and human companions Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter). This absolutely works to the film’s advantage, as it doesn’t carry the heavy burden of being compared to the plot of the games and leaves me excited for what they’re going to do in the next movie.

 

“Sonic 2’s” greatest asset, though, is without a doubt its cast and characters. The live-action cast, particularly Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik and Lee Majdoub’s Agent Stone, are delightfully hammy and fun to watch. And despite some reviews decrying more annoying animal friends (yawn, complaining about Sonic having friends is so 2007), the voice cast is just as good. Ben Schwartz feels right at home as Sonic, even more so than in the first film. Idris Elba perfectly portrays Knuckles’ mysterious rival status while also being downright hilarious. And reprising her role in the games, Colleen O’Shaughnessey’s Tails is adorable, despite what the critics say. 

 

The first Sonic film was, at its core, a buddy-cop “animated character in the real world” family film that happened to have Sonic in it. It didn’t do much to distinguish itself from the rest of its genre, and it didn’t take advantage of its title character nearly as much as it could have. The second film, on the other hand, is undeniably a Sonic movie. It’s fun, it’s sentimental and, above all, it was written with its source material and fanbase in mind. And despite ambitions and expectations both being sky-high by the film’s end, I couldn’t be more excited for “Sonic 3.”

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