CINEMA CRITICISM: Is this film adapted into a video game delivered well?


Movie: Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Year: 2022

Autonomy: 2 hours 2 minutes

Director: Jeff Fowler

Genre: Animated sci-fi

Video games have been better at adapting what works in movies than movies have been at adapting what works in video games. Roger Ebert received widespread criticism for stating that he did not believe a video game could ever be art. Whether he’s right or not, when it comes to telling a story, video game companies always turn to movies, which is why Sega’s hit Sonic the Hedgehog video game series has now produced his second super-fast alien movie. Sonic is so popular that he’s starred in 31 games and various spin-offs, appears on t-shirts and birthday party decorations and in LEGO and plush form, and was the first video game character to be a balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

What Sonic game doesn’t have are features beyond speed and determination or a plot beyond the basic quest. In the games, he overcomes various obstacles to beat the evil, special-powered emerald Dr. Ivo Robotnik with the help of his best friend Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey), a two-tailed fox who is a gadget genius. Sonic also has portal-opening rings given to him by his late guardian and teacher, the owl-like Longclaw.

But movies need more characters, dialogues and plots than video games. So, a bunch of human characters and storylines were added, and Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) was given more personality. Following the events of the first film, he now lives with a human couple, Tom the “Donut Lord” (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter), whose relationship with him is roughly one-quarter friendly, three-quarters parental. Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey, behind a mustache larger than a pair of football epaulettes) was exiled to a mushroom planet at the end of the first movie for trying to use Sonic as a power source, but he is brought back to earth by someone else in search of Sonic, a space echidna named Knuckles (Idris Elba), who packs a punch.

According to the games, Robotnik and Sonic soon go in search of an all-powerful Emerald. Meanwhile, Robotnik’s sidekick, Stone (Lee Majdoub), holds a cafe and waits to start doing evil again. I would check Yelp reviews before trying any place called The Mean Bean, but somehow customers have to be scared off with an F rating from the health board to give Stone the confidentiality to turn it into an ultra-high-tech base of operations. Meanwhile, Sonic has sent Tom and Maddie to Hawaii via a gold portal ring for the wedding of Maddie’s sister Rachel (a terrific Natasha Rothwell) to handsome Randall (Shemar Moore).

There’s nothing particularly creative here. The film’s frequent references to other movies aren’t commentary or homage, just a nod to the audience: “Yeah, we know we’re appropriating details from better movies.” It is over-traced, with three different scenarios mixing comedy and adventure. The cafes section, even with the always great Adam Pally, should have been skipped. There’s also a lot of mayhem for a movie aimed at young kids, including a giant creepy robot and lots of explosions.

But there’s enough to keep kids and parents entertained. For kids, Sonic is a loyal, forgiving friend and endearing character who can create a mess when his “parents” are away, but clean it up very quickly before they find out. There is also a fun dance. Plus, it has the ever-popular potty humor. Even with all the explosions, there’s no real damage. Carrey, in what he says is his final film, is more silly than scary and as wildly expressive as ever, his springy limbs and mercurial facial expressions following the over-the-top antics of animated characters. There’s delicious flavor in the way Robotik describes the mushroom planet as “portobello purgatory” or refers to a “space dungeon earthy”.

Parents will appreciate retro songs reminiscent of their college days like “It’s Tricky” or “This is How We Do It.” Grandparents are not forgotten; the soundtrack also features Andy Williams and Norah Jones. Rothwell is a delight, especially when things don’t go her way and when she has a backpack full of gadgets but no idea what they’re doing. And all generations will appreciate the film’s emphasis on kindness and friendship rather than battles and resentment. (NOTE: Stay during the credits to see an additional scene)

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