Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Pandering but Entertaining

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 retains half of the humor and heart of the original 2020 comedy. Director Jeff Fowler clearly ran out of good ideas and made up for it by cramming in one too many characters from the games, and filled a two-hour runtime with too many jokes pandering to young children, such as an obligatory dance-off and Sonic gorging on candy while home alone for the weekend. Its superior predecessor was such a surprise by virtue of paring down the setting to small town Montana, wherein Sonic befriends the local sheriff (James Marsden) and outlandish computer-animated alien theatrics were kept to a relative minimum. The original was a sweet story about friendship, coming of age, and Sonic adjusting to life on Earth. The best parts of this sequel follow suit, when Sonic’s human friends (James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Adam Pally) are involved or when his new save-the-world quest literally crashes a wedding party. The sister-in-law subplot (she’s the bride-to-be) is much funnier this time around, with Natasha Rothwell nearly stealing the movie as Bridezilla incarnate after she discovers her fiance’s dastardly secret. Idris Elba’s deadpan vocal performance as Sonic arch-enemy Knuckles is a laugh riot, evoking a sense of humor similar to Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy. Jim Carrey was a highlight in the original film, but his over-the-top antics here go too far, overenunciating every word of dialogue as if given instructions to elicit a laugh-a-minute for every impressionable kiddo in the audience. He has a few worthy puns, and not much else, a shame given that Dr. Robotnik might very well be his last performance. Ben Schwartz remains a delight as Sonic, his vocal performance occasionally paying wonderful homage to his scene-stealing turn on Parks & Recreation. As a game agnostic, Colleen O’Shaughnessey’s casting as Tails was a mistake, her vocals standing apart from Schwartz and Elba as something belonging in a Saturday morning cartoon more so than a Saturday evening blockbuster. The visual effects are a cut above, if rather lacking in creativity, and yet, many will come away with a smile on their face. The franchise seems immune to absolute cynicism.

Grade: C+

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