Minor spoilers for Sonic 2 can be found in this article! Only minor though!
Sonic the Hedgehog has always been centered around Sega’s iconic mascot, who’s quick on his feet and with his wit. That wit made actor Ben Schwartz an easy fit for taking on the role of the blue speedster in the amazing cast for Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Some improvising naturally made its way into the mix, and in one specific scene, Schwartz’s reputation preceded him as he was asked to mimic none other than Jean-Ralphio Saperstein from Parks and Recreation.
Two jokes entered, but sadly one joke had to leave, as I learned during the junket for Paramount's Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Speaking with Ben Schwartz and James Marsden on behalf of the film, the quick and freewheeling nature that makes up the franchise's humor kept the room going. It also reminded me of a quick scene, where Sonic and the Wachowski family dog Ozzy settle down to watch some TV. Much like any Paramount+ subscriber, our pals have a lot of choices.
As Sonic talks about the program they finally settle in to watch, he refers to one of the characters as being “the wo-oo-oo-ooorst.” The Parks and Recreation reference plays as a wonderful surprise when watching Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and it was just as surprising when it came to its inclusion in the finished film. When speaking with CinemaBlend, Ben Schwartz told the following story about how Jean-Ralphio made his way into the Sonic universe:
There you have it: Jean-Ralphio Saperstein is now canon in the world of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, instead of Sonic learning more about human culture through another fine film, perhaps Speed. That opens the door to a lot of possibilities, as Sonic the Hedgehog 3’s current development cycle could see our young hedgehog consulting Pawnee’s mischievous rich kid as a guiding force on his journey! No?
C'mon, even if it was just a quick special feature or a quirky ad concept that promoted the movies, to see Sonic and Jean-Ralphio saving the universe would be the total opposite of this Parks and Rec fixture’s catchphrase.
It’s a surprising admission, because when taking his Space Force role, Ben Schwartz admitted he was trying to avoid playing another Jean-Ralphio Saperstein. Still, returning to that well of comedic glee in the specific context of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 makes perfect sense. Sonic is like a teenager in our universe, and he latches onto pop culture in his own special way. Which means he’s probably run into the best moments of Jean-Ralphio in Parks and Recreation like the rest of us, and it’s time to take a break to honor that decision in the best way possible:
Knowing there is a Parks and Rec reference in Sonic 2 should have fans of both franchises pumped. Unfortunately, the moment that did make it into the movie came at a cost, which was the deletion of another Jean-Ralphio callback. Ben Schwartz filled me in on that gag that didn’t make the cut, which had co-star James Marsden responding in a way very similar to my own thoughts on the matter:
"Ben Schwartz: But there was one other Jean-Ralphio reference in [Sonic 2]. There was a ‘Don’t Be Suspicious’ reference, and we cut it, because we decided that more than one Jean-Ralphio reference is way too many Jean-Ralphio references.
James Marsden: No, you can never have too many. "
Can you have too much Jean-Ralphio? Scientists, scholars and the NBC board of executives will have to mull that over and get back with a definitive answer. Personally, I think the second joke would have worked, as it’s such a popular meme that audiences would have dug seeing it in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. However, the decision making on this sequel certainly hasn’t hurt its image, thanks to a pretty pleasant critical response to Sonic 2.
As it stands, perhaps we’ll see that second Jean-Ralphio scene in the deleted scenes that might accompany the home video release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Much like the deleted alternate fate of Longclaw and the very different Sonic The Hedgehog opening that originally kicked things off, we might get another look into what could have been further down the line. Maybe we'll even receive an update on whether Crazy Carl is still crazy or not -- and spoilers -- because he too is missing from this new film.
Now’s not the time though, as Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is waiting for audiences to accept it into their hearts. Though you’ll have to speed off to the theater, as this adventure is only playing on silver screens currently. For all the other big ticket showstoppers heading to your local multiplex, our guide to this year’s upcoming movies is available to lead the way.
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CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.