A cartoonish entity too manic to pass for human returns — also, Sonic the hedgehog

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | April 7, 2022

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Opens in Theatres April 8
 2.5 out of 5

In a world in which IPs rule, and aggressively mediocre movies open to US$39 million in box office (see Morbius), one should be thankful for small mercies.

Not that there’s anything particularly extraordinary about the Sonic franchise. Probably the only time it was interesting was when Paramount got the hedgehog so wrong in the first film that animators had to go back to the drawing board — a human-like hedgehog? Blasphemy! But it does enough things right to justify its existence.

The film opens with Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey, who relishes the role) marooned without coffee or moustache wax on the hedgehog’s Mushroom planet. Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) is not doing much better. His efforts to establish himself as a superhero regularly end in the destruction of public property. Obviously, they need each other to have any sense of purpose.

Enter Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba), a red echidna who’s a sworn enemy of Sonic’s tribe. Knuckles believes the blue hedgehog is the key to retrieve the Master Emerald, a magic gemstone that transforms thoughts into realities. Knuckles, a bit of a simpleton who takes everything literally, partners with Robotnik against Sonic, who in turn finds a sidekick in Tails, a two-tailed yellow fox of sweet disposition and a knack for mechanics.

To free Sonic of human dead weight, his guardian, Sheriff Tom (James Marsden) is jettisoned to a wedding in Hawaii. The B plot, the misadventures of a beta male surrounded by alphas, gets more tracking than expected and gives adults in the room something to watch besides manic Carrey.

Thankfully, the brain trust steering the franchise doesn’t get bogged down in Sonic mythology. Instead, they provide just enough information to keep the saga moving forward without overwhelming the audience. Considering there’s over 30 years of material to mine (videogames, TV series, comic books and spinoffs), the restraint is commendable.

Then there’s the Carrey factor. There was a time before his vaccine hesitancy, and high-brow aspirations (at best, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; at worst, The Bad Batch) when he was fun. The over-the-top delivery, the go-for-broke physical comedy, the ridiculous high-concept setups: the comedian made the nineties and early aughts a joy. It’s comforting to watch him let loose and chew the scenery one last time… or until Sonic 3.

Now, let’s not go crazy. SH2 is not top-tier children’s entertainment. Its message can be reduced to “saving people is better than letting them die”. But in a subgenre (videogame adaptations) known for churning out unwatchable movies, there’s something to be said about a franchise that establishes its own rules and plays by them.