MPAA Rating: PG
USCCB Rating: A-II
Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 reels
When the original trailer to the first Sonic film, produced by Paramount Pictures, dropped on Valentine’s Day in 2019, many fans were horrified by the weird redesign of their beloved blue hedgehog. Facing intense backlash, the animators – to their great credit – went back to the drawing board for several months and released the film with a model that more closely resembled the video game. This not only saved the movie, which was quite good, but represented a simple but important lesson in storytelling: don’t needlessly change what works just for the sake of supposed “progress”.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 did not forget that lesson. Though a bit weightier in narrative, it retains the silly fun of the original without being overly annoying or awkwardly topical.
The story opens with Sonic (Ben Schwartz) attempting to foil a bank heist in Seattle, leaving only destroyed police cars, traumatized civilians, and a broken sewer line that leaves the Emerald City smelling even worse than before. “You are a terrible hero,” a man yells from his burned out car. “Don’t worry,” Sonic’s father figure advises. “Your time will come, but it will pick you.”
His “time” comes sooner than he thinks. Dr. Robonik (Jim Carrey) conveniently escapes from exile, seeking vengeance. This time, he is joined by Knuckles (Iris Elba), an alien echidna, bent on finding the Green MacGuffin Emerald, which allows the user to control reality. Sonic, joined by the flying fox-like extraterrestrial Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey), sets out to stop them and save the world.
Along the way, some enemies will become friends, the heroes will inevitably win, and the next film will be set up. The plot writes itself. And that’s not a bad thing. Quite the opposite, as doing something genuinely novel in cinema is rare—and most attempts at pushing the envelope fall flat. Sonic excels as an optimistic and sarcastic tween, the same as he has always been. Idris Elba also gives an amazing performance as the voice of Knuckles the Echidna, bringing Shakespearean gravitas to a ridiculous scenario. There is also a hilarious subplot involving a wedding in which the bride goes on a lawn mower rampage and there is a dance off between Sonic and Russian gangsters.
The positive messages of Sonic 2 are standard for the franchise: love of family, value of friendship, hope over cynicism, and good always conquers evil in the coolest way possible. It took me right back to my childhood of Saturday mornings spent with Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, and cereal that turned milk green. Those virtues of family, friendship, and goodness were standard in the early 1990s, but feel revolutionary now compared with the content in much of today’s animation.
In late March, a video leaked of a board meeting where several top Disney executives openly admitted artificially injecting gay content (“queerness”) into children’s programming while simultaneously suppressing any acknowledgement of humans as “boys” or “girls.” Karey Burke, President of General Entertainment, stated she believed “30-40% of Generation Z is queer” and praised her two of her own children for being “transgender and pansexual.” Like so many clueless adults, they think this is what “the kids want,” even while the box office says otherwise. The first Sonic film had the biggest opening weekend of any video game adaptation, and this film doubled that record.
The ultimate litmus test for Sonic came not from me, but my two oldest boys – ages 8 and 6. This was only the second film we had seen in the theaters since the government deemed ordinary life acceptable, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the auditorium sold out, with many of the audience in costumes or holding stuffed toys. My munchkins were glued to screen from the first scene to the last. Once home, they were running around as fast as they could, bouncing off walls and asking if they could immediately see the next one. That’s the best review a film like this could ask for—and it fully deserves the recommendation.
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