By Kurt Jensen | Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — The makers of “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (Paramount), which follows up the screen franchise’s 2020 kickoff, rely on a pretty simple formula: Intersperse chase sequences with wisecracks.
As a result, this second mix of animation and live action makes no more demands on its audience than a session of playing the Sega videogames on which both movies are based.
That was undoubtedly the intent of returning director Jeff Fowler and the first film’s screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller — joined, for this outing, by John Whittington. But for those not devoted to the character and his specialized world, it’s a bit numbing.
Lip service may be given to the need for enduring connections with others since, as viewers of the first picture will recall, Sonic (voice of Ben Schwartz) is a cosmic expat always looking for a permanent home and a setting where he won’t feel like an outsider. But this theme is not given pride of place.
That goes, instead, to hyperkinetic pursuits, explosions and slapstick. These elements are embedded in a plot that sees Sonic — equipped with the trademark gold rings that enable him and others to travel instantly to new locations — on a quest to find a magic emerald that grants whoever possesses it immense powers.
Manic and hapless Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey), Sonic’s longtime adversary, is on the same hunt. Having escaped the Mushroom Planet, to which he was exiled at the end of the last installment, he’s once again out for global domination.
Sequels often involve new sidekicks. For Sonic, this takes the form of Tails (voice of Colleen O’Shaughnessey), a golden flying fox whose moniker comes from the dual appendages she can manipulate like helicopter blades and whose presence was first tipped amid the credits of the original.
For his part, Dr. Robotnik acquires a fresh minion — embittered anteater Knuckles (voice of Idris Elba) — to go along with his veteran henchman, Stone (Lee Majdoub).
With his friend Tom (James Marsden) off to a family wedding in Hawaii with his wife, Maddie (Tika Sumpter), Sonic has just enough time to zip around the planet in search of the mystical gem, trailed by Dr. Robotnik and his flotilla of drones as everyone’s backstories unspool.
Sonic, as ever, yearns to find the meaning of his existence, hoping to become an acknowledged superhero. Early on — in the film’s lone reflective sequence, set in rural Green Hills, Montana — Tom advises him, “You don’t choose that moment. That moment chooses you.”
After this bit of hackneyed philosophizing, it’s back to the kind of action that makes these movies feel like extended Road Runner cartoons with a sentimental journey incongruously tacked onto them. It’s an unstable blend but easily satisfied kids may not care much one way or the other.
The film contains intense action sequences and a single scatological reference. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.