This movie is better than the 2020 original

3 stars. 2 hours and 2 minutes. Rated PG. In theaters.

At first glance, ‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2’ looks like a cash grab from the same people who made 2020’s shocking hit ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’.

I use “shocking” because the first film, which had its modest charms amid loose ends and bald spots, seemed destined for scrap video game adaptations – a genre that has repeatedly crumbled over the years. years because studios have no idea how to translate interactive digital characters into real settings.

Instead, “Sonic” grossed over $300 million in the US and became the highest-grossing superhero movie of the year (yes, even beating Marvel’s widgets). Go figure.

This first ‘Sonic’ – about an alien blue hedgehog that runs so fast it makes The Flash sleepy – cleverly embraced its child-friendly contours, portraying its cartoonish protagonist as an all-CG creation that lives in the real world. (in this case the blandly fictional hamlet of Green Hills, Montana). It could have been a jarring contrast, but it worked because everyone seemed to know exactly what kind of movie they were in.

The cast returns in full here for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” which opens Friday, April 8, and to better effect than the original.

Sonic is still voiced by Ben Schwartz (“Parks and Recreation”), who delves into our hedgehog’s more childlike qualities as he nurtures his superhero aspirations. Sonic’s human sidekick, Green Hills Police Officer Tom Wachowski (a chipper James Marsden) leaves Sonic home alone to attend a wedding in Hawaii with his wife/Sonic’s mother figure Maddie (Tika Sumpter) . Maddie’s sister and bride-to-be Rachel (Natasha Rothwell) nearly steals the show in scenes that seem barely connected to the main plot, like a sitcom dropped in the middle of a Thanksgiving parade. Amazingly, it works.

Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey, left) and Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba) in a scene from “Sonic The Hedgehog 2”. (Paramount Pictures and Sega of America)

Meanwhile, Sonic’s nemesis, Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), escaped his galactic exile at the end of the last film. Knuckles, a red, more muscular version of Sonic (voiced by Idris Elba), struts through a portal and tells Robotnik about his quest to find an ancient stone known as the Master Emerald. Robotnik, looking more and more like his ridiculous video game figure, is freed.

Another new and old character is Miles “Tails” Prower (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey), Sonic’s sidekick who also debuted in the 1992 game Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Tails traveled to Earth to the same reasons – to find Sonic and secure the Master Emerald – though he looks more like Sonic than Knuckles, an innocent presence whose sweet voice belies his apparent space travels and unexplained powers.

Short but pivotal guest appearances from ringer characters (Adam Pally, back with more dialogue and light comedic activity, and a slightly off-the-record Tom Butler) help round out the solid cast. No one will mistake this for ensemble drama, but it’s surprisingly entertaining, even during its slow moments.

Having seen this with my two young children, it was easy to appreciate what worked and what didn’t. Some of Carrey’s semi-crass jokes flew over their heads, along with the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” references, for example. But the colorful action and sillier jokes connected every time. Despite the long runtime, they were hooked from the start.

It’s rare to see a kids’ movie, especially one based on an aging corporate franchise, where every actor seems invested in it – especially the goofy-eyed, sharp-performance villain Carrey, who spits electricity. in every scene. Ignore it as another cash-out; you wouldn’t be wrong. But it’s pure, unapologetic fun, a thrill ride for kids that manages to fly for adults too.

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