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Speed demon sequel is, of all things, slow

Thomas Floyd

THE WASHINGTON POST – In Sonic the Hedgehog 2, there is no problem that can’t be outrun by its titular speed demon. With that in mind, it’s especially perplexing that this video game-inspired sequel should be, of all things, a bit sluggish.

If 2020’s surprisingly appealing Sonic the Hedgehog stayed true to its lightning-fast protagonist by delivering humour and heart in a brisk, 100-minute package, the follow-up gets bogged down in some muddled franchise bloat.

By revisiting every major and supporting character from the first film while padding the story with new ones, redundant “fetch quests” and a two-hour run time, returning director Jeff Fowler goes all in on an ill-fitting Marvel-ising of Sonic’s story. (And that’s not even taking into consideration the film’s Infinity Gauntlet-esque MacGuffin, use of sky beams and mid-credits stinger).

This second installment opens with Robotnik where we left him at the end of the first film: stranded on a remote, mushroom-populated planet after Sonic got the better of him. But he soon forms an alliance with a temperamental echidna named Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba), and the villainous duo travel to Sonic’s adopted home planet of Earth in hopes that the quippy blue hedgehog can steer them toward an all-powerful emerald. A lore-heavy, globe-trotting adventure – complete with a baffling Siberian dance battle – ensues. But you just need to know it’s standard-issue “stop the bad guys before they destroy the world” stuff.

It’s a joy hearing Elba flaunt his underused comedy chops by playing Knuckles as a simple-minded warrior, lacking in wit and self-awareness, even if the shtick is a shade too close to Drax from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Fans of the video games will also recognise Colleen O’Shaughnessey’s Tails, an anthropomorphic flying fox who tags along for the ride after making his big-screen debut in the first movie’s credits sequence.

Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in Sonic The Hedgehog 2. PHOTOS: PARAMOUNT PICTURES & SEGA OF AMERICA
Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and Knuckles (Idris Elba)

While both characters make for welcome additions, their presence tends to leave the live-action cast in the dust. James Marsden and Tika Sumpter are back as Tom and Maddie Wachowski, Sonic’s surrogate parents in the sleepy Montana town of Green Hills. But they spend half the movie sidelined on a Hawaiian vacation while attending the wedding of Maddie’s sister (a scene-stealing Natasha Rothwell, who, between this and The White Lotus, apparently can’t get enough of Hawaiian resorts). It’s an entertaining enough detour, but one that feels like it belongs in another movie. Although it’s nice to see actors Lee Majdoub, Adam Pally and Tom Butler also reprise their bit parts, their shoehorned scenes do little more than take gags from the first film and beat them to death.

There’s no denying that kids will delight in Sonic 2’s zany antics, explosive set pieces and commendable lessons. Older viewers should get a kick out of the punning dialogue and meta-humour, which wryly calls out homages to Batman, Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones. (“I don’t want to die like this,” Carrey exclaims, while outrunning a boulder straight out of Raiders of the Lost Ark. “It’s derivative!”) And Schwartz still knows how to slip in a clever pop culture reference, including a delightful dig at Dwayne Johnson’s feud with Vin Diesel.

Carrey, 60, has speculated that this could be his acting swan song, telling Access Hollywood recently that he was “fairly serious” about retiring. Even if this is the final showcase for Carrey’s idiosyncratic talents, the mid-credits stinger makes clear that this franchise has every intention of zooming on. Next time, let’s hope Sonic is back up to speed.

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