Knuckles TV Review

The Sonic the Hedgehog spin-off works well when the Idris Elba-voiced echidna is on screen and suffers when he is not.

Last Updated on April 25, 2024

Knuckles review

PLOT: The new live-action event series follows Knuckles on a hilarious and action-packed journey of self-discovery as he agrees to train Wade as his protégé and teach him the ways of the Echidna warrior.

REVIEW: It is hard to believe that Sonic The Hedgehog premiered on the big screen just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world. What is even harder to believe is that the movie was actually pretty good. With a sequel released two years later and Sonic The Hedgehog 3 slated for December 2024, the world is chock full of SEGA goodness these days. To bridge the wait until the end of this year, the six-episode limited series Knuckles highlights the Idris Elba-voiced echidna warrior’s journey to find his place in our world. Featuring limited connections to the movies, Knuckles has its moments but overall feels like an attempt to tread water until the third film comes out thanks to an inconsequential plot and surprisingly limited screentime for the titular character. More of a showcase for Adam Pally, reprising his minor role from the first two movies, Knuckles is going to draw in a large audience of kids excited to see the animated heroes but who will be underwhelmed by how little they appear on screen.

Of the six episodes of Knuckles, the first episode is by far the best. Directed by Sonic the Hedgehog helmer Jeff Fowler, the opening episode is the sole entry that features Sonic (Ben Schwartz), Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey), and Maddie (Tika Sumpter). After the events of the second film, Knuckles is still struggling to find his place on Earth, specifically within the confines of Green Hills, Montana. While Tom Wachowski is out of town, Knuckles (Idris Elba) causes chaos around the house and must find a place for himself, thanks to the spiritual guidance of his fellow echidna, Pachamac (Christopher Lloyd). Knuckles decides that his mission is to help Deputy Wade Whipple (Adam Pally) on his journey to win a bowling tournament in Reno, Nevada. You read that right: Knuckles is a video game-themed twist on the Woody Harrelson and Randy Quaid-led film Kingpin. Almost immediately after leaving Green Hills, Knuckles shows up on the radar of two G.U.N. agents, Mason (Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi) and Willoughby (Ted Lasso‘s Ellie Taylor) who work for one of Doctor Robotnik’s former employees who calls himself The Buyer (Game of Thrones‘ Rory McCann). The Buyer, like Robotnik, wants to harness the extraterrestrial power of Knuckles’ quills and has created some gadgets for Mason and Whilloughby to use.

If that were the core plot of Knuckles, it would probably be a pretty decent series. The first episode boasts solid action between Knuckles and the two G.U.N. (Guardian Unit of Nations) agents; the next five episodes are very hit-and-miss. Many of the series follow a road trip format, with the direct showdowns between the hero and the villain taking a backseat to Wade’s personal journey. This includes a side trip to Wade’s childhood home where he and Knuckles celebrate the Jewish sabbath with Wade’s mother, Wendy (Stockard Channing), and his FBI agent sister, Wanda (Edi Patterson). Knuckles comes to appreciate the Jewish customs, and Idris Elba continues to do great work as the stoic warrior, but each episode seems to use Knuckles as a plot device to tell Wade’s story. We get a little background on Knuckles aside from his spiritual messages with Pachamac and a couple of well-placed action sequences in the first, third, and final episodes. There are long stretches across the series that do not even have Knuckles in them as Adam Pally takes center stage as the goofy Wade. Pally is a good comedic actor, but his arc just does not seem worth devoting three hours of screen time when audiences want to see Knuckles kicking ass and beating up bad guys.

knuckles, idris elba

The supporting cast here is better than it has any right to be, but everyone seems to be appearing in different series. The first episode is the most similar to the Sonic movies, while subsequent episodes are all over the place. Julian Barratt (The Mighty Boosh) plays Wade’s friend, Jack Sinclair, an overly dramatic bounty hunter. Scott Mescudi barely registers as Mason, while Ellie Taylor is oddly sexy as the severe-haircut-wielding Willoughby. Rory McCann appears in just a couple of scenes and not nearly enough to justify his character as a villain, while Cary Elwes does his best as the Bill Murray-surrogate villain bowler, Pistol Pete. Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel appear as the commentators for the bowling tournament in a nod to Jason Bateman and Gary Cole in Dodgeball, but their appearance will go over the heads of younger viewers. Every person in the cast is funny and plays their roles well, but they all feel like they were cast and then picked their roles out of a hat to populate this series.

The series, created by John Whittington, boasts scripts by Whittington, Brian Schacter, and James Madejski. Directing duties fall to Sonic the Hedgehog helmer Jeff Fowler on the premiere, with Ged Wright, Brandon Trost, Jorma Taccone, and Carol Banker on the remaining five. The production values are limited to a couple of action set pieces, one inside Wade’s childhood home and the other on the streets of Reno, Nevada. Most of the rest of the series relies on interiors or green screen exteriors. The animation quality of Knuckles is as good as the movie, but his limited time on the screen should tell you how much budget was allotted for this show. Only Idris Elba is consistent and good in this series, with everyone else feeling more like a cartoon than the animated character does. If this had been compressed into a feature film that gave us more of what we get in the first and last episodes, Knuckles would have worked better for me.

The six episodes of Knuckles each clock in right around thirty minutes each which means we mercifully do not need to spend an inordinate amount of time with this series, but it still feels overlong and does not have enough Knuckles in it. I started having a blast with the series, but as each episode progressed, I became less and less enthusiastic about it. What starts out as a solid spin-off from Sonic the Hedgehog quickly devolves into an unnecessarily convoluted story about a character most people do not even remember who happens to hang out with Knuckles. If this had been an origin story or had featured more of Idris Elba, I likely would have enjoyed it more. As it stands, Knuckles is a short batch of six episodes that still feels about an hour-and-a-half too long. There is not enough action or development related to the title character with an uneven focus on secondary characters. Kids will be disappointed, and adults will be bored. It is a shame because I laughed at multiple moments that will stick with me that did not overcome the lackluster project as a whole.

Knuckles premieres on April 26th on Paramount+.

Knuckles

AVERAGE

6

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.