It might be an understatement to say that video game movies have had a history of horrible adaptations. The task of converting an interactive experience into a visual one seemed to stump filmmakers for decades — until recently. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is the latest addition to a recent wave of video game movies that hopefully marks a change in the quality of a historically underwhelming genre.

The film follows Sonic (Ben Schwartz, “Rumble”) months after the events of the first film; he is living with Tom (James Marsden, “My Little Pony: A New Generation”) and Maddie Wachowski (Tika Sumpter, “The Old Man & the Gun”) as their son. After Tom and Maddie leave for a wedding in Hawaii, leaving Sonic home alone, he has to stop Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey, “The Truman Show”) and Knuckles (Idris Elba, “The Suicide Squad”) on his own. His newfound friend Tails (Colleen O’Shaugnessey, “Danny Phantom”) warns Sonic that Robotnik and Knuckles want to find the legendary Master Emerald, a source of unlimited energy from an ancient civilization.

The major addition to this film is a couple of new characters from the video game franchise: Tails and Knuckles. Fans of the game can appreciate the classic characters animated stunningly on the big screen. Knuckles starts off the movie as a brash and arrogant warrior who wants to avenge the destruction of the Echidna clan that raised him, but throughout the film, he grows to understand Sonic’s troubles and empathize with his fight against Robotnik. It is not meant to be a major twist that Knuckles switches sides — the movie fairly obviously telegraphs that Knuckles dislikes Robotnik and has a favorable view of Sonic’s loyalty to his friends and family. The film still manages to be engaging despite this predictability, relying on Elba’s performance and the flashy action scenes to keep the audience captivated. Tails has a similar arc to Knuckles, beginning the film in support of Sonic and being unconfident in his own abilities, but eventually growing to be just as competent as Sonic. The eventual end of the movie is apparent from early on, but the journey there is such a wholesome story that the audience is unlikely to get bored.

While James Marsden returns in all his himbo glory, the human subplot is by far the least interesting aspect of the film. Although the choice to split Sonic away from the family he made in the first movie was a smart one — it allows Sonic to form new relationships with Tails and Knuckles outside of any prior restraints, allowing the film to not be restricted by its predecessor — the human plotline used to separate them is about a wedding between two characters the audience doesn’t have any real attachment to. This leads to parts of the film feeling completely unrelated to the primary story being told, as if their sole purpose was to pad the runtime. As a result, the sequel gains about 20 minutes in length compared to its predecessor, to no positive end whatsoever. 

There are times while watching the movie when you will groan in pain from a specifically terrible line. There are times when the ridiculousness crosses the carefully balanced line between dumb fun and a genuinely emotional story, becoming a mess of jokes and plot. The film is far from perfect, and every viewer will easily be able to nitpick. Tails, in particular, has many such moments, with quite a few line deliveries feeling out of place in comparison to the quality performances from other actors and actresses in the film. But I became increasingly willing to forgive the tiny errors while watching. After a while, I was no longer getting annoyed at the incredibly cringey floss dance or the dumb Olive Garden product placement played off as a joke. Instead, these elements started to add to a kitschy charm. 

The Sonic the Hedgehog franchise was not one that I ever expected to enjoy. When the original horrifying trailer was released in 2019, I expected another terrible adaptation of a video game series but was instead pleasantly surprised with a somewhat ridiculous but heartwarming film. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” might not have any surprises in store, but it once again tells a touching story.

Daily Arts Writer Zach Loveall can be reached at zloveall@umich.edu.