Sonic the Hedgehog 2 review – a silly, shiny gem

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ups the ante with more shenanigans, bigger action, and more Jim Carrey.
sonic the hedgehog review

There’s nothing about the Sonic the Hedgehog film franchise that should have worked. As an adaptation of the video games, the first film was extremely loose – with the entire ‘human’ framing narrative being a wacky fabrication to help keep audiences grounded in a story about a magical blue hedgehog being tormented by an evil villain that resembles an egg. But despite all odds, it did work, and now Sonic the Hedgehog 2 has replicated that impossible magic.

As in the first film, the plot of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is wacky and extremely camp, but with a solid sense of humour and bigger action set pieces, the sequel successfully eclipses the original film. It’s buoyed by a sense of confidence and cheeky, winking charm that makes it a delightful watch. While some of its wisecracks verge on grating (there are frequent references to flossing), the key to the Sonic the Hedgehog film remains its tongue-in-cheek humour.

The featured actors know exactly what kind of film they’re in – a silly action-adventure featuring magical shenanigans. Comedic performances from Adam Pally (Wade Whipple), Natasha Rothwell (Rachel), Shemar Moore (Randall), James Marsden (Tom) and Tika Sumpter (Maddie) are accordingly as over-the-top as the brief specifies.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 retains the odd human framing narrative of the original film – Sonic now lives at the home of Tom and Rachel, acting as their less-than-human ‘son’. In his off time, he travels to various cities, attempting to fight crime while Dr Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) languishes in a mushroom world.

With the rocky relationship-building aspect of the original film firmly out of the way, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 wastes no time pushing the action forward, with the sequel placing the focus firmly back on Sonic, Robotnik, and the fate of the world.

sonic the hedgehog review film
Image: Paramount Pictures

It isn’t long before Robotnik is back causing mischief – although what is new is the addition of his meaty, musclebound henchman Knuckles, voiced in dramatic fashion by Idris Elba. This Knuckles is fairly pitch-perfect, with the film’s writers taking clear inspiration from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 in both his appearance, and the film’s overall story.

While positioned as the film’s main villain, he does face clear competition, in the form of Jim Carrey’s returning Dr Robotnik.

It should surprise nobody to learn that Jim Carrey is at his absolute goofiest in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Somehow, he manages to amplify the strangeness and quirks of his performance in the first film tenfold, making this version of Robotnik the most unhinged and rubbery we’ve seen yet. On top of already-weird character quirks, he brings even more to the table in this sequel, gurning and grinning his way through the script’s material, elevating it to new, ever weirder heights.

In a movie like this, his performance rules. He’s exactly the cartoonish foil Sonic needs – and while he does somewhat overshadow the arrival of Knuckles, he’s having so much fun it’s hard to fault Carrey’s choices. He’s certainly a scene stealer here, but there are also new players that help to balance his camp and ridiculous delivery.

One of these is loveable fox Tails, who’s voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey, the only original Sonic voice actor to feature. O’Shaughnessey is a real talent, and there are few who could match the iconic childlike, endearing voice of Tails – so it’s a welcome relief to see her reprise the role here.

sonic the hedgehog tails
Image: Paramount Pictures

Tails is also a great addition to the cast of Sonic – the ‘gadget guy’ to Sonic’s action hero. With nifty inventions and a helping hand, he goes on his own satisfying character arc in the film that fulfils his potential as Sonic’s right-hand man.

He’s also key to much of the action, as Knuckles and Sonic begin a rivalry that brings them straight from Green Hills to the trail of the mysterious Master Emerald.

While the film does briefly lose its way in the side plots that follow Tom, Maddie and Rachel – there’s an entire wedding subplot that feels like unnecessary filler – the renewed focus on Sonic lore, and his band of otherworldly pals, does a great service to the action of the film.

In slow moments it’s easier to think too hard about Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s ridiculous subject matter and characters, but by keeping the action clipping along with huge set pieces in snowcapped mountains, sunny Hawaii and distant ocean temples, the film effectively distracts from its admittedly weird premise.

It’s also pretty deft at wrapping ‘OG’ Sonic fans up in this new interpretation of the franchise mythology via a number of crafty easter eggs and cameos that’ll keep classic fans happy.

sonic the hedgehog robotnik
Image: Paramount Pictures

Dr Robotnik’s home base, for example, is known as the Mean Bean – a clear reference to underrated Sonic spin-off Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. Tom’s ringtone is also a familiar Sonic tune, there’s snowboarding references to Sonic Riders, Robotnik’s egg form makes a cameo appearance, and there’s plenty more to spot as the film goes on. It doesn’t rely too heavily on winks (unless you count a juicy mid-credits scene), but it’s nice to see the reverence with which it treats the source material.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is rare sequel – one that pays homage to the franchise’s long-running legacy, while having a lot of fun with Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, Robotnik, and their wacky story.

The game franchise has always been a bit strange, and any adaptation needed to rely on this weirdness to craft a compelling and faithful story. Luckily, everyone involved in the making of this film was more than up to the task. It’s a weird film, a funny film, and a worthy follow-up to one of the most surprising hits of 2020.

None of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 should work – and yet, it does, thanks to deft writing, snazzy action, and solid performances from its well-chosen cast.

Four stars: ★★★★

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Director: Jeff Fowler
Production: Sega Sammy Group / Original Film / Marza Animation Planet / Blur Studio
Distribution: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: 31 March 2022

An invitation to the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 premiere in Sydney was extended for the purposes of this review.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.