(2022) (Jim Carrey, voice of Ben Schwartz) (PG)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Sci-Fi/Action/Comedy: A speedy, anthropomorphic, alien hedgehog must contend with his archenemy along with a new alien wanting to get their hands on a magic emerald that can turn thoughts into reality.
Sonic the Hedgehog (voice of BEN SCHWARTZ) is an anthropomorphic, alien hedgehog who lives with his newly adopted surrogate parents -- sheriff Tom (JAMES MARSDEN) and veterinarian Maddie (TIKA SUMPTER) -- in Green Hill, Montana. Due to his amazing speed and desire to be a hero, Sonic moonlights as the crime fighter Blue Justice but usually ends up unintentionally causing secondary damage while doing so.
Tom instructs Sonic to tone it down, and he agrees, especially with Tom and Maddie headed to Hawaii to see her sister, Rachel (NATASHA ROTHWELL), marry Randall (SHEMAR MOORE). But little do any of them know that Sonic's archnemesis from last time around, high-tech wizard Dr. Ivo Robotnik (JIM CARREY), has escaped the mushroom planet -- where he had been vanquished -- with the help of Knuckles the Echidna (voice of IDRIS ELBA).
The latter is the last member of a warrior tribe that once battled Sonic's owl mentor's tribe and he's now after the all-powerful Master Emerald that can turn thoughts into reality. Robotnik agrees to help Knuckles find Sonic, with his ulterior motive being that he wants the gem for himself.
And it looks like that will happen until two-tailed, anthropomorphic flying fox Tails (voiced by COLLEEN O'SHAUGHNESSEY) arrives to help Sonic. From that point on, the two do what they can to prevent Knuckles and Robotnik from getting their hands on the emerald.
- OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
As a screenwriter, one of the first things you learn -- be it through pre-writing instructions or notes given on a completed script -- is that length matters. And that's all based on the roughly accurate assessment that one page, on average, equals one minute on the screen. So, unless you're Aaron Sorkin or some other established scribe with a proven track record, turning in a screenplay that's 200 pages long is going to be rejected from the get-go, most likely never read.
In general, shorter is better, and that's mainly from a financial standpoint. Long movies cost more to make and can diminish the number of times they can be shown in a theater in a single day, thus reducing box office potential. And with word of mouth being so crucial nowadays, the last thing you or a studio wants is a viewer to say something along the lines of "It felt really long."
All of which brings us around to this week's release of "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," the -- I know you're going to be shocked -- sequel to 2020's "Sonic the Hedgehog." That film -- which I reviewed favorably with some hesitations -- clocked in at 99 minutes (including credits). While maybe a tad long for a film aimed at kids, it was otherwise just around right length-wise, what with having to both introduce its universe and characters to both fans and new viewers, but also fulfill all of the usual A to Z story obligations.
Thus, I was somewhat surprised to see that the sequel had a running time 23 minutes longer than the original. After all, the premise and characters have already been established and thus, if anything, I would have thought the follow-up would actually be a bit shorter. Alas, director Jeff Fowler and editor Jim May have allowed the script written by Pat Casey, Josh Miller, and John Whittington to feel both padded and bloated.
Granted, the pacing isn't slow as there are the usual bits featuring the video game character zipping around, Jim Carrey overacting (again) as if operating in hyperdrive, and lots of action, jokes, and yes, the obligatory crude material aimed squarely at kids. And I'm sure plenty of the latter will eat this up, especially if they loved the first film. It's just that it feels and plays out far too long for what it is and wants to be.
Despite the added length, the plot is fairly simple and straightforward. After being vanquished to the mushroom planet at the end of the last film, Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey having fun again hamming it up and then some) is trying to find a way back to Earth and his efforts end up drawing the attention of Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba). He's a no-nonsense echidna warrior who wants to find our titular character (again voiced by Ben Schwartz) in the belief that will lead him to the Master Emerald, a powerful gem that can convert thoughts into reality.
Needing a way back to Earth to get his revenge against the hedgehog (but secretly coveting the emerald's power for himself), Robotnik leads Knuckles to Sonic whose newly adoptive surrogate parents (James Marsden and Tika Sumpter) have headed off to Hawaii for her sister Rachel's wedding (in a subplot that does little for the film and easily could have been jettisoned to cut down those pages/minutes, which also holds true for the separate scenes featuring Robotnik's assistant).
It turns out Sonic's speed is no match for the new character's fighting power, thus necessitating the arrival of Tails the flying fox (voiced by Colleen O'Shaughnessey) to save Sonic and fly him away so that they can regroup and come up with a plan to stop both Knuckles and Robotnik from getting their paws on the stone.
That's it, and none of that requires the excessive running time. If anything, and with some judicious jettisoning and editing of the material, this offering easily could and should be at minimum thirty minutes shorter than it is.
As it stands, it's okay enough entertainment for the kiddos, but as things wear on any adults in tow could start developing the feeling that it's wearing out its welcome. Let's just hope Part III comes to its senses and equals the speed and agility of its title character. As it stands, "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" rates as just a 5 out of 10.
Reviewed April 2, 2022 / Posted April 8, 2022
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