GAL APPROVED! Knuckles Review: We Could All Use A Little More Idris Elba In Our Lives

By   |   April 26, 2024   |   Entertainment

Idris Elba’s voice performance as the anthropomorphic Knuckles the Echidna is key to the humor of Knuckles, so it sounds like a headscratcher that his namesake TV show doesn’t center him.

If you’re a gamer, comic book reader or cartoon acolyte, you might be chummy with Knuckles, the famous Sonic The Hedgehog supporting character of the SEGA video game franchise, in various iterations. Elba’s take is a guardian who takes the warrior code way too seriously. It’s comedic gold that I wish the show exploited more.

While the series does refer to Knuckles’s last-of-his-kind background, I didn’t feel I learned anything meaningfully new about Knuckles in this series. Okay, he does learn to chill and make a human friend, but he doesn’t really get a revelational arc as grand as his human companion.

While the show’s creators John Whittington (writer of Lego movies and Sonic The Hedgehog 2) and Toby Ascher may be inclined to leave additional Knuckles character development for Sonic the Hedgehog 3, it would have been judicious for this spin-off show.

After the events of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Knuckles, Sonic (Ben Schwartz), and Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) are hiding in Montana. Sonic implores Knuckles to relax. But unable to keep his warrior urges at bay, Knuckles sets his sights on training the loser sheriff, Wade Whipple (Adam Pally). For Wade to grow into his best self, he and Knuckles must venture to Reno for Wade to win the bowling tournament.

It’s lighthearted, road trip family-friendly entertainment that goofs with tropes. Yes, it’s made for adults, but the kind of adults who might still be a kid inside. The human adults act like children who are sick and tired of being told to behave.

Knuckles seems written by fans who want to live the glorious fantasy of having the famed Echidna as their hero and buddy. At times, Knuckles fades into the supporting role, operating as a remote muse rather than a buddy. I had to wonder if the creators were being conservative with the VFX team that animates Knuckles. But whenever they share a scene, Knuckles and Wade have the funniest banter.

Pally’s performance does strike as a hit-miss variety of comic timing, running the gamut from trying too hard or a genuine zinger. Still, he deserves credit—Sonic rings—for treating himself just as cartoony as a Sonic world. I’m surprised that this show justifies its focus on a human arc.

Of all noteworthy performances, Grease-alum Stockard Channing as Wendy Whipple steals the spotlight. Christopher Lloyd flexes his chops as the voice of Pachacamac, the spirit who bequeaths Knuckles the quest. Whenever the show shoots out these go-for-broke visual sequences (including a puppetry rock opera by Talk To The Hand puppets), it’s at its best. Knuckles might taste like Community-lite, but even a fraction of Community-type zaniness can elicit a chuckle.

Still, episode 1 hinted at a much more engaging Knuckles slice-of-life if he didn’t leave his Montana house. It’s one where Knuckles is being an annoying roommate-cum-ward to his human host played by a (wasted) Tika Sumpter, who vanishes as soon as episode 1 ends.

I could at least say I also couldn’t help but headbang to the rock songs.

Knuckles premieres April 26 on Paramount+.

Photo credit: Paramount Pictures/Sega/Paramount+

Filed Under: Entertainment
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