It didn’t matter that the Davidson household flew a Nintendo flag, when June 1991 came around, the allure of a certain high-speed blue mammal released by Sega for their Genesis machine was a little hard to ignore. The appeal of “gotta go fast!” as players could make the titular Sonic curl into a ball, power-up, and blast-off through a board remains a great deal of fun, even if it doesn’t help one get very far in level one, known as Green Hills. After many games introducing more allies and enemies, as well as television programs and comics, Sonic the Hedgehog hit the big screen in February of 2020, directed by Jeff Fowler (Sonic the Hedgehog) and starring Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) as the voice of Sonic and Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) as the infamous Eggman himself, Dr. Robotnik. Fowler’s film successfully balanced the referential with the general to create a family film that old gamers and new, as well as families just looking for a good time, could enjoy. To no one’s surprise, a sequel followed that not only invited more characters to join in, but expanded the narrative without losing any of the heart that made the first Sonic so darn appealing. Now, after much waiting, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 comes available to own on home video with nearly an hour of special features and feature-length commentary.
Typically, a first review of a film is spoiler-free, but as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (called Sonic 2 moving forward) not only released in theaters April 2022, but hit digital/Paramount+ in May, avoiding spoilers seems a tad silly (much like this film). Consider this your spoiler warning.
With Robotnik sent off-world at the end of their battle, Sonic spends his days relaxing with his adoptive family, the Wachowskis — Tom and Maddie (James Marsden and Tika Sumpter) — and his nights playing superhero. Thinking that all is well, the Wachowskis head off to Rachel’s (Natasha Rothwell) wedding in Hawaii, except all is not well: Robotnik has returned and he’s brought a new friend, Knuckles the Echidna (voiced by Idris Elba), with a strength that rivals Sonic’s speed and a determination to prevent Sonic from reaching the rumored Master Emerald that resides on Earth. But Robotnik isn’t the only one with a new ally for Miles “Tails” Prower (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey) has been watching Sonic, waiting for the perfect opportunity to introduce himself and lend a hand. With forces aligning against Sonic, he’s going to need all the help he can get to prevent Robotnik from obtaining the Master Emerald, which would give him the power to remake Earth however he sees fit.
Not only did the cast and director return, but original screenwriters Pat Casey and Josh Miller do, with contributions from screenwriter John Whittington (The LEGO Batman Movie). Because of this, there’s a general sense within Sonic 2 of expansion without just re-doing the actions or events from before, a trap that befalls many sequels, especially those for family audiences. The storyline between the Wachowskis and Sonic grows from merely friendship into family, culminating with Maddie proclaiming “let’s go save our kid” during the final conflict between Sonic and Robotnik. Sonic doesn’t quite learn that he’s not ready to be a superhero, but he does learn that he can’t be a hero alone. This isn’t a sudden discovery either, but one which the script slowly works toward by showing Sonic poorly saving the day at the start, learning to work alongside Tails throughout, and then coming to realization that the combined might of Knuckles’s strength, Tails’s brains, and his speed can topple even the mightiest foe.
What ends up surprising the most, though, is the continued storyline involving Maddie’s sister Rachel and how that opens up the story further. In the first film, Rachel is presented to the audience as someone who mainly provides comedy through discomfort, as well as mild character conflict. We don’t ever really know why Rachel dislikes Tom and Sonic 2 doesn’t expound on this detail, but what the script does do is use their interpersonal conflict to generate humor out of Tom’s unfortunate need to interrupt her vows to save Sonic. Smartly, the writers use this moment to reveal that Rachel, unknowingly, is involved in a sting operation from the U.S. federal government to capture Sonic. This not only creates some reasonable tension to the proceedings, but also produces a chance for Maddie and Rachel to demonstrate their own closeness while giving the hilarious Rothwell more to do. Of course, this reveal by the writers also establishes that the federal government didn’t just disappear after the end of Sonic 1, creating a more realistic connection between the two currently released films and the in-film teased third (which Elba more-or-less confirms is coming in his featurette “The Powerful Puncher: Knuckles”). Most kids’ movies aren’t so adept at expanding side-characters’ stories, subplots, and potential future films without sacrificing some element to the main plot of the current film, yet Sonic 2 only becomes a richer experience because of this approach.
Speaking of the special features, the majority of the included content is material that expands on what we already know from the film itself. The bloopers confirm that the cast of mostly comedians or comically-astute individuals brought a natural silliness to their time on set. The featurette “Finding Your Team” takes a wider view on the creation of the film, allowing members of the cast and crew to talk about what it was like to work on the film and continue the work they started with Sonic 1. This is the central place you’ll hear from Marsden and Sumpter as new cast members Elba and O’Shaughnessey, as well as returning member Carrey, are the only one’s given individual featurettes. Given that Sonic 2 is a mixed-medium production, the featurettes provide a way to learn exactly how the cast and crew blended the absurd with the real to create such a fun adventure. Of course, this allows the audience to drill into their respective experiences contributing to Sonic 2, with supportive information from cast and crew, and offers some fun insights into what they brought to the film. Considering Carrey has announced that he may retire from acting after this film, it’s a shame that his featurette, “Robotnik Reimagined,” is only a little over five minutes. Personally, I do think it’s amusing that, should this be the case, his final on-screen line is “Later haters,” which is amusing on its own, but that it’s also Robotnik mimicking something Sonic said earlier in the film to him makes it even funnier as it’s on-brand for this version of Robotnik who appropriates anything he finds useful and claims it as his own.
The remaining materials — seven deleted/extended scenes, Kid Cudi’s music video for “Stars in the Sky,” and the feature-length commentary with Fowler and Schwartz — round out the home release special features, each offering their own value for fans. The deleted/extended scenes are a mix between final versions and temp CG/scratch voices to show what could have been, but was left out. The Kid Cudi music video is available online, but if you are the type who wants to enjoy things at your own discretion, now you can cue it up whenever you like. But the real treasure trove of insights will come from the feature-length commentary, the place where those of us who like to learn as much about the filmmaking process of a specific film as possible like to hang out. Feature-length commentaries seem to be falling by the wayside on most home releases, so make sure to take advantage of this discussion.
As someone who continues to be a fan of a certain Italian plumber, it amuses me to no end that it’s the electric blue speedster whom has produced two of the more fun video game adaptations in recent memory. Both Sonic 1 and 2 don’t go for strict adaptations and, because of this, find a reasonable middle-ground that appeals to fans and the unaware alike. Are there times when the script asks the audience to ignore obvious breaks in reality? Yep (that avalanche should’ve killed all the guests at Rachel’s wedding)! And yet, we roll with it as the tone of the film keeps the threats so ridiculous that any risk of harm is laughable. Just like the games of origin themselves, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 offers some silly fun with a few surprising twists and turns to keep us engaged, while ultimately being rated E for Everyone.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Special Features:
- Feature-length audio commentary with director Jeff Fowler and Ben Schwartz (2:02:19)
- Animated Short: Sonic Drone Home (5:19)
- Bloopers (3:19)
- Music Video: Kid Cudi’s “Stars in the Sky” (3:07)
- Finding Your Team (6:32)
- The Powerful Puncher: Knuckles (5:44)
- Rapid Fire Responses with Ben Schwartz (3:20)
- Robotnik Reimagined (5:37)
- A Sibling for Sonic: Tails (4:47)
- Seven (7) Deleted and Extended Scenes (17:39)
Available on digital and Paramount+ May 24th, 2022.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD August 9th, 2022.
For more information, head to the official Sonic the Hedgehog website.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.