When Sonic the Hedgehog 2 launched on Sega Genesis in 1992, it took the foundation laid with the Blue Blur's debut entry and expanded it in myriad ways. In the 16-bit sequel, Sonic had new moves and a two-tailed fox friend to aid him, but with those upgrades came more significant threats from the evil Dr. Robotnik. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Genesis was immediately regarded as a definite upgrade over the already strong first entry in the series. Similarly, Paramount's Sonic the Hedgehog 2 movie expands the universe established by its predecessor and delivers a better overall film thanks to bigger action setpieces, laugh-out-loud gags, and some terrific fanservice moments.
Warning: While I try to remain as spoiler-free as possible, some aspects of the narrative and characters are mentioned throughout this article.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 carries the unenviable task of following up a movie that was, by most accounts, a surprise hit. The first film succeeds by being a fun, family-friendly video game adaptation that tells a heart-filled story while paying homage to the character of Sonic the Hedgehog. While Sonic the Hedgehog's unexpected positive reception could have put its sequel in a difficult spot since it comes in with higher expectations, the Jeff Fowler-directed Sonic the Hedgehog 2 clears the higher bar, delivering a better movie in nearly every way.
The story picks up less than a year after the first film's events. Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) is stranded on the mushroom planet, while Sonic (Ben Schwartz) acts as a vigilante. While the first movie's theme is the importance of friendship and family, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 centers on discovering what it means to be a hero. This theme doesn't quite attain Spider-Man's "With great power..." levels of meaningfulness, but some worthwhile lines and sequences hammer home that theme, particularly when Sonic's father figure, Tom (James Marsden), is involved.
Despite that thematic shift, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 retains the heart that makes the first film so well-liked. Sonic remains energetic and endearing, thanks mainly to Schwartz's performance. Both Schwartz and Carrey truly come into their own in this film, further embracing their respective roles. Carrey, in particular, delivers one of his most over-the-top performances, full of exaggerated line deliveries and seemingly elastic body humor moments only he can provide. His performance as an increasingly unhinged antagonist is among the highlights of this movie.
The addition of Tails (Colleen O'Shaughnessey) and Knuckles (Idris Elba) also elevates the movie above its predecessor. O'Shaughnessey tackles Tails in a way only a voice actor who has spent eight years already playing the character could, delivering her lines with a genuine, earnest understanding of Sonic's sidekick. Elba also provides strong voice work as the dimwitted brute Knuckles, though with such a well-known voice coming out of the echidna warrior's mouth, I sometimes fell out of the immersion. These two characters fit well into the story, and their characterizations are authentic to what fans of the source material would want. One of the things I most desired from the first movie was a deeper exploration of the lore surrounding the planet Sonic came from, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 delivers that.
Once the film's early stages establish these new characters, the story efficiently gets up to speed as Sonic and Tails embark on an adventure to retrieve the powerful Master Emerald before Dr. Robotnik can get his hands on it. Along the way, we're treated to high-octane action sequences and more gags, one-liners, and quips than seem plausible. The action scenes are exhilarating; the snowboarding sequence shown in the trailers is a terrific tribute to similar moments from the games, while a confrontation featuring Sonic and Tails storming into battle aboard The Tornado biplane brought a smile to my face. The humor is equally crowd-pleasing, and I had multiple laugh-out-loud moments for every joke that felt too heavy-handed or obvious. Even the Easter eggs, while easily noticeable, were often cleverly injected in ways that garnered chuckles.
Fittingly, the pacing of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is often speedy. However, inconsequential scenes sometimes drag too long, such as a dance number or one subplot featuring characters and arcs outside of the main storylines. The movie began to feel like a slog in those moments, but they are thankfully few and far between; whenever Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, or Robotnik are on the screen, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is relentlessly enjoyable.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 retains all of what made the first film good while shedding much of its dead weight. Despite those sequences and arcs that overstay their welcome, whenever any of the main characters were on screen, I was captivated thanks to the high-flying action scenes or the humorous banter. I loved the characterizations of all the major players. I can't wait to see what's next for this franchise as it expands into another already-confirmed sequel, plus a Paramount Plus streaming show starring Knuckles. If the credits scene is to be believed, the next stop for this franchise is going to be an exciting destination for fans.