Sonic the Hedgehog made his splashy debut on the big screen in 2020. It starred Ben Schwartz, James Marsden and Jim Carrey. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was one of a handful of people who never played the mega-popular video game, so I wondered if it might be difficult to connect.
I loved it. I loved everything about it, so much so that I even went back and saw it a second time in theaters with a friend. It was crazy, colorful fun bursting with visual pizazz and showering sparkles of pure energy. A perfect blend of live action and lively digital animation.
It was that rare example of a PG movie that actually was entertaining for both kids and adults.
It raked in a worldwide box office gross of just under $320 million, which pretty much guaranteed that there would be a sequel. The only question was whether it could live up to the fun or financial success of the original.
Without further ado, Sonic is back, with a bang, proving that lightning sometimes can strike twice and that it is possible to crank out a sequel worthy of a box office hit.
It’s all here. Solid writing. State-of-the-art digital animation. Brisk pacing. And the return of the beloved cast including James Marsden and Tika Sumpter as Sonic’s adoptive parents Tom and Maddie, Jim Carrey as the evil Dr. Ivo Robotnik and Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic.
Idris Elba voices Knuckles a new arch enemy who is essentially Sonic with red fur, two hay-maker hands and a nasty mean streak.
The prime element here is speed. Sonic can run like a hypersonic rocket. And the animation team once again cashes in on the exhilaration of watching Sonic burn across all forms of terrain.
It has the thrills of a modern-day theme park ride.
But what ramps up the visual effects here are the equally impressive audio effects. If you see Sonic the Hedgehog 2, you need to see it in a Dolby Theater with the speakers cranked to the max.
The theater where I screened it was also rigged with seats that vibrated that made the thrill ride truly visceral.
Over the years, theater effects like these were usually cheap tricks to sell tickets to bad movies.
William Castle made a fortune with carnival side show shenanigans in movies like House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Tingler (1959) and 13 Ghosts (1960). They were always laughable. But audiences loved them.
With the development of improved visuals and audio tracks, Hollywood has turned former gimmicks into legitimately effective entertainment elements.
Historically, the incorporation of color film, stereophonic sound, wide-screen and 3-D formats were in response to the development of television in the Fifties. The fear was that people would never leave home unless there was something that eclipsed the flickering tube sitting in their living rooms.
Today, with giant, flat-screen, high-resolution TVs, coupled with 7.1 surround sound systems, the bar has been raised once again to serve up an entertainment experience that you can’t duplicate at home.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 does just that.
If there was ever a reason to drive to a theater and buy a movie ticket, this is it. It is a masterful application of large format images, bone crunching audio effects, and vibrating theater seats, resulting in a delightfully immersive, sensory stimulating movie experience.
Once again, the filmmakers have created a movie that is entertaining for both young and old.
There is enough fun and silliness for the kids and enough movie references and innuendo for the adults, particularly those who love movies.
There are movie references sprinkled throughout, including nods to films like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Ten Commandments (1956), Indiana Jones (1984) and The Iron Giant (1999). A shot of a majestic mountain is unmistakably the iconic Paramount logo.
It’s all in fun. When Dr. Robotnik and Knuckles are in danger of being crushed by a giant rolling bolder (Indiana Jones style), Robotnik remarks that it’s all so “derivative.”
For the record, Jim Carrey is perfectly cast as Robotnik. He’s evil, insane, and incredibly funny.
Despite the recent entertainment news reports that he is retiring, we can only hope that he might pull a Tom Brady and agree to come back to this franchise one last time.
These movies wouldn’t be the same without him, and, of course the blue streak of fast and furious fur better known as Sonic the Hedgehog.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 opens in theaters April 8.
Photos courtesy © 2021 Paramount Pictures and Sega of America, Inc.