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'Sonic the Hedgehog 2' packs more action, less heart

Adam Graham
The Detroit News (TNS)

One of the fun surprises of 2020, and one of the few pleasures in what turned out to be a historically bad year, was "Sonic the Hedgehog," a bright, light, good-natured cinematic reinvention of Sega's popular video game character. In a landscape littered with soulless intellectual property, "Sonic" rose above, molding itself into something of a warmhearted "E.T."-lite story and becoming one of the last blockbusters to hit screens before the world turned upside down due to a certain pandemic.

"Sonic the Hedgehog 2" now arrives with expectations which the fuzzy little blue guy isn't able to meet. It is bloated, running past the two hour mark, while the first crossed the finish line in just under 100 minutes. We get two new characters from the "Sonic" universe, Tails and Knuckles, neither of whom fully justify their presence. And there is an entire wedding subplot that has nothing at all to do with Sonic, which seems shipped in from a direct-to-Netflix romantic comedy in an entirely different universe. (Need trimming? Start there.)

Ben Schwartz is back as the voice of Sonic, who has now settled comfortably into life in Green Hills, Montana. He's like a precocious child who can't wait until his parents go out of town to stay up all night, watch movies and eat snacks, which he does when Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter) go to Hawaii for the wedding of Maddie's sister, Rachel (Natasha Rothwell).

From left, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter and Sonic (Ben Schwartz) star in "Sonic the Hedgehog 2." The movie opens Friday at Regal West Manchester, Queensgate Movies 13 and Hanover Movies 16.

Trouble finds our blue friend in the form of Dr. Robotnik, again played by Jim Carrey, who doesn't encounter a syllable he can't turn into three. He's joined by Knuckles, a red Sonic-like figure and an ancient warrior with the low-rumble voice of Idris Elba, a pairing that never quite meshes. They're out to vanquish Sonic and gain control of a powerful green emerald which holds all the mystical powers of the universe, or somesuch. So much for Sonic's quiet weekend at home.

Sonic is joined by a new ally, Tails (voice of Colleen O'Shaughnessey), a yellow fox with two tails (hence the name), but the adventure is never as satisfying as the simple fish-out-of-water — or hedgehog-off-of-home-planet — story told in the first film. "Sonic 2" has more action but less heart, and fewer surprises than were delivered the first time around. Maybe times were simpler back then. Or maybe this hedgehog was on better turf when he was more of an underdog.

'SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2'

Grade: C

MPAA rating: PG (for action, some violence, rude humor, and mild language)

Running time: 2:02