'Sonic 2' Review: Movie Sequel's Fast Fun Captures Childhood Sense of Adventure

Knuckles and Robotnik take on the blue hedgehog in a sequel that leans into Sega's classic '90s games, and it's available to stream on Paramount Plus.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
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Sean Keane
3 min read
Sonic vs Knuckles in Sonic 2

Knuckles takes on our blue hero in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Paramount Pictures

When I was a kid, in the '90s, Sonic the Hedgehog represented adventure. My friends and I spent summers huddled around a Sega Genesis (well, we called it a Mega Drive), trying to dash through everything the 1991 video game had to offer. When sequels Sonic 2, 3 and Sonic & Knuckles followed, the fun was turned up to 11 with cool new characters like Tails and Knuckles. My young mind was blown over and over, creating incredible gaming memories.

The first movie adaptation dashed into theaters two years ago, and with its speedy sense of fun nabbed Sega's blue blur a whole new generation of young fans (even those who'd never played the games). Those fans are now primed to meet Sonic's buddies and discover more of this rich, imaginative universe. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 hit theaters in April and came to Paramount Plus on Monday, and it'll undoubtedly delight kids of all ages, with director Jeff Fowler recapturing in this sequel that all-important sense of adventure you remember from your childhood.


Jim Carrey dials up the silliness for his second outing as wacky Dr. Robotnik.

Paramount Pictures

We reunite with Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) as he bristles against the limitations of being a kid under the care of Earth foster family Tom and Maddie Wachowski (James Marsden and Tika Sumpter). Sonic sneakily commutes from sleepy Green Hills, Montana, to bustling Seattle for some nighttime superheroing antics. It's an engaging opening, mixing the previous movie's superfast action and warm, fuzzy message of being content with family and friendship.

Sonic's family life will soon be threatened by Jim Carrey's Dr. Robotnik, who sports a video game-accurate shaven head and magnificently bushy mustache and has become even more unhinged in his months trapped alone on a mushroom planet. He gets home by summoning Knuckles the Echidna (Idris Elba), possibly the most beloved member of Sonic's supporting cast (because red is badass and he can climb up walls). The two team up to hunt for the reality altering Master Emerald.

Sonic gets help in the form of iconic twin-tailed fox sidekick Tails (Colleen O'Shaughnessey) bringing the movie's cast of anthropomorphic characters to three. They're so beautifully rendered, you'll quickly forget you're looking at silly CGI creations, banishing any lingering aesthetic doubts after the first film's initial design was changed following fan outcry.


The extremely cute Tails rounds out the movie's core CGI trio.

Paramount Pictures

That's partially because the writing and performances make each distinct and lovable -- Schwartz's Sonic is as fast-talking and pop culture-obsessed as ever, O'Shaughnessey's Tails is modest and uncertain, and Elba infuses Knuckles with a clever mix of intensity and naivete. When they're thrown together with Carrey at his most cartoonish, it's easy to get sucked into their quest for a shiny green MacGuffin.

Every sequence focusing on Sonic and pals is so visually delightful and thoroughly dazzling that it's hard not to revel in the CGI spectacle and pop culture references. As it goes on, the flick leans harder into imagery from the classic games (a scene referencing Sonic's inability to swim is a standout), which will undoubtedly delight nostalgic '90s fans and draw younger gamers into a retro odyssey.

Paramount Pictures

Old-school gamers will dig some of Sonic 2's iconic imagery.


Plotlines with the human characters vary; Lee Majdoub's Agent Stone is a joy to watch as he pines for Robotnik in his lovely new coffee shop, while Adam Pally's clueless deputy sheriff doesn't get nearly enough screen time (they share a few excellent scenes together though).

It feels like screenwriters Josh Miller, Patrick Casey and John Whittington didn't know what to do with the Wachowskis, though, since Marsden and Sumpter spend most of the movie embroiled in a subplot involving her sister's wedding in Hawaii. These sequences give Natasha Rothwell the chance to show her comedic chops as the stressed out bride, but they outstay their welcome, add little to the main narrative and make the movie feel about 20 minutes too long.

Despite this diversion, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the confident sequel the original left me hoping for, with a sharper script and jokes that'll leave you giggling. It maintains the original's family friendly tone and dives into the classic games to create a cinematic universe for Sega's beloved icon -- that '90s sense of adventure lives on.

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