1 of 5 | Sonic the Hedgehog returns in "Sonic the Hedgehog 2." Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Sega
LOS ANGELES, April 2 (UPI) -- After delaying the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie to redesign the title character, it turned out to be a big hit. Sonic the Hedgehog 2, in theaters Friday, is in greater need of retooling, but no one stepped in before it was too late.
Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) escapes exile on the Mushroom Planet when Knuckles (voice of Idris Elba) frees him to help him find Sonic (voice of Ben Schwartz). Knuckles is looking for the master emerald which Sonic's mentor, Longclaw, hid for safety.
Sonic has a new ally, Tails (voice of Colleen O'Shaughnessey), a fox from his home planet who can fly with his two tails. Sonic and Tails try to find the emerald before Knuckles and Robotnik can, but unfortunately the film is not that simple.
Sonic 2 is a full two hours long. Maybe that's a breeze for kids weened on epic Harry Potter films, but this sequel stretches the material way too thin to fill that time.
Sonic's human friends, Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter) go to her sister Rachel (Natasha Rothwell)'s wedding in Maui. It is a whole subplot that has nothing to do with Sonic.
They could have saved 15-20 minutes eliminating the wedding subplot. All it does is lead to predictable shenanigans at the ceremony.
Knuckles and Tails are great characters but they are sidelined by human pratfalls. And the one human you want to see pratfall, Carrey, is also upstaged by exposition and an unwieldy ensemble.
For a major quest, Sonic and Tails only go to two places. They go to Siberia to find a compass, then to Maui to catch up with the other character and that's it.
Plus, too many of the film's visual effects set pieces have nothing to do with Sonic's powers. Sonic runs really fast. Instead of running, this movie often has him dancing or snowboarding.
Dancing and snowboarding are things any creature could do in a generic kids movie, but they are not Sonic the Hedgehog. Two sequences also have Sonic or Tails driving vehicles which is confounding when the characters are faster than any car.
The climax of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 renders a video game homage as an exhausting blockbuster set piece. It's technically faithful to the Sega Genesis game but the film has already dragged on too long with extraneous threads that wouldn't even qualify as side quests in a game.
There's still never been a great movie based on a video game, but Sonic the Hedgehog was one of the decent ones. Unfortunately the sequel is more like Super Mario Bros.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.