Sonic The Hedgehog 2

**1/2

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Sonic The Hedgehog 2
"Mostly harmless."

At the end of the last Sonic movie our protagonist had more or less settled on earth. The eponymous blue hedgehog had an adoptive family life in the small town of Green Hills, and his nemesis was stranded on a mushroom planet. Obviously that state couldn't persist, else there'd be no sequel.

It's unlikely that anyone who hasn't seen the first Sonic movie will go and see the second, and that's fair enough. The first outing was entertaining, though it is notable that a pre-release backlash saw the character design for its azure hero significantly changed. This is something that's much easier to do when most of your cast are acting at tennis balls.

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There are plenty of other returnees. James Marsden is back as small town Sheriff Tom. His career has plenty of voice acting and CG enhanced roles, including X-Men's Scott Summers in at least two of the overlapping continuities. He's also (trivia/conspiracy fans take note) played both JFK and John Wilkes Booth. His partner, and by extension Sonic's adoptive mother, Maddie is played by Tika Sumpter. She's also done plenty of TV work, and appeared in the differently odd An Acceptable Loss. The big ticket bring-back is Dr. Ivo Robotnik, 'Eggman' to the purists, Jim Carrey still finding comic mileage in a mixture of snide shouting that brought him to screens 30 odd years ago. His henchman Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub) also returns, providing not just the usual henchly duties. Keeping the home fires burning to keep the goat milk latte hot, finding the instruction manual for a giant robot, and providing a likeness for a stone simulacrum that's more than slightly reminiscent of Wilson from Cast Away.

Ben Schwartz, another TV comedy stalwart returns as Sonic, joined in voice duties by Colleen O'Shaughnessey as Tails and Idris Elba as Knuckles. Tails is a young box fox, voiced by an older woman in the same tradition as Bart Simpson, Knuckles is an echidna whose characterisation in the videogames veers between being as tough as two short planks and as thick as a brick outhouse, and Elba seems to be having fun with both though there's a real sense that he's channelling Drax from Guardians Of The Galaxy. At this point I find it necessary to say that I'm not just referencing other films for fun, this is a fundamental feature of Sonic 2. I counted references to Top Gun, Risky Business, Magic Mike, The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Wizard Of Oz, Indiana Jones, the actual titles of Poltergeist, Winter Soldier, and Snow Dogs. When a character says "I don't want to die like this, it's derivative" it might be a post-modern act of lampshading or it might be a nod that I missed.

There's a gun like the noisy cricket from Men In Black, a sequence of hyperspeed to an incongruous tune like the Quicksilver moments from the Days Of Future Past X-Men sequence, an MCU "banter" statement of "well, that did something", someone leaving a vehicle during a chase in a manner lifted directly from RED, and so on. There's a "Siberian Folk Custom" of the Povanka which seems cribbed wholesale from the Addams Family custom of the Mamushka, but that's a Siberian folk who appear to be ballerina bikers in an Austrian bierkeller.

Heck, even the use of Ini Kamoze's Here Comes The Hotstepper made me think of Altman's Prêt-à-Porter before anything else. That one might be on me. Though the soundtrack also features part of the score of Ant-Man & The Wasp, a bit composed for Robert Redford baseball movie The Natural, and there's a reference to Limp Bizkit. That might be because they contributed to the soundtrack for the second Mission: Impossible film, or it might be because kids who grew listening to the new wave of rap metal are now old enough to be bringing their kids to the cinema now.

There's a plot that consists of successive McGuffin chases, Tails finds Sonic, Knuckles finds Robotnik, Knuckles finds Sonic, Sonic has to find something that will help him find something that will help him save the world. With everything quite as familiar as that a subplot that raises profound ethical questions about entrapment and may well remind UK viewers of at least one scandal involving the Metropolitan police was a bit of a surprise, but like a tunnel painted on a cliff wall it's possibly an unexpected depth.

The child friendly rating includes two moments where a mild swear word is continued into a longer word that isn't rude. Every sidearm we see is a taser, but that less-than-lethal plasticity is slightly undermined when a couple of main battle tanks and a convoy equipped with fifty calibre machine guns points itself at the Mean Bean café. It's a mixed bag.

It's got a wedding subplot and a glowing crab heiroglyph, Jim Carrey shouting the words "snot rocket," truly all things to all YouTube commenters. I'm not saying it was assembled by a committee to serve as grist for a "623 things you missed" video but returning writers Jeff Fowler, Pat Casey and his frequent collaborator Josh Miller may have been keeping score for allusions and outright mentions.

I caught a good proportion of the film ones, but there's plenty of game elements too. An underwater sequence, a foot-tapping animation, even "gotta go fast" show a certain fondness for the source material. One of the few repeated elements was mention of the Four Seasons Oahu, a resort hotel on the wester Leeward Coast that provided not only a filming location but one imagines some other quid pro quo for pretty heavy handed promotional consideration. All I got from the deal was the nagging suspicion that it was too far for a helicopter to have travelled from there to the outskirts of Seattle in roughly the same time it took a biplane to take a shortcut through a wormhole.

There's a whole sub-sub-plot involving the magic rings that make that possible, and while it's a nice touch to have the stars of the Universal logo swapped over their transformative powers have to be clumsily sidelined. Potentially equally clumsy the use of "good people on both sides", because nothing says "sequel to a videogame movie" like an allusion to the aftermath of Charlottesville. It's certainly more jarring than nods through dialogue to TV's Parks & Recreation but it's part of the piece.

That referential nature extends to the credits, which feature a pixelated recap of the preceding events, animated in the style of various Sonic games. Those credits have the by now almost obligatory revelatory scene within them, but as soon as you've seen yet another spikey figure you can leave. You will do so entertained. I don't want to seem like I'm complaining too much, there is a certain pleasure in the familiar and where Sonic can't achieve it with the games it can certainly try with other movies. There's enough action to satisfy, even if at times the compositing appears to have gone simultaneously moiré and awry. It's mostly harmless, and once it's rolled up it's not quite balls. Just don't hold your breath waiting for anything unique.

Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2022
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When the manic Dr Robotnik returns to Earth with a new ally, Knuckles the Echidna, Sonic and his new friend Tails are all that stands in their way.

Director: Jeff Fowler

Writer: Pat Casey, Josh Miller, John Whittington

Starring: Ben Schwartz, Idris Elba, Colleen O'Shaughnessey, Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell

Year: 2022

Runtime: 122 minutes

Country: Japan, US

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