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Sonic the Hedgehog Franchise Moves to Streaming with Entertaining Knuckles

So far, we've had two “Sonic the Hedgehog” movies that follows the typical Hollywood court order, shipping the blue blur to Earth and forcing him to spew pop culture references left and right. It's come to the point that Sonic fans, young and old, might develop Sonic-holm Syndrome. If you can't run faster than the mediocrity, accept it. Be that it may, one of the standout characters in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” was the red barbarian Knuckles the Echidna (Idris Elba). Having no knowledge of Earth's customs, we hear no pop culture references from his furry mouth; he's positioned as a parallel to Sonic, grieving his family's demise, which made for a relatively strong arc. Since one can't have too much Elba, Knuckles gets his own show on Paramount, a road-trip buddy comedy to Reno with Adam Pally's goofy human sheriff Wade Whipple. Along the way, he learns the joys of Earth, bowling, and being Jewish. Yes, seriously.

Set a little while after “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” the show opens in a world safe from Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey), meaning everyone can relax. Knuckles, who doesn't comprehend the concept of R&R, treats everything on Earth like a gladiator pit, looking for his next glorious battle to fight. Sonic (Ben Schwartz) tries to convince Knuckles to enjoy Earth and its joyous customs. However, Knuckles doesn't consider the planet his home, admitting he only stays because he made a vow to Sonic and Tails (Colleen O'Shaughnessey). When his adoptive guardian, Maddie Wakowski (Tika Sumpter), grounds him for being so warrior-pilled, he's visited by the spirit of his tribe chief, Pachachamac (Christopher Lloyd). He assigns Knuckles to find a mentee to train to become a warrior in the ways of the Echidna. Of all options, Pachachamac points out deputy sheriff Wade Whipple (Adam Pally).

Whipple is preparing for a national bowling tournament in Reno in the hope of reconnecting with his deadbeat dad, "Pistol" Pete Whipple (Cary Elwes), who abandoned him at a young age but whom he still looks up to. Enthused over bowling being Wade's tournament of champions, Knuckles joins him on his cross-country quest. Wade tries to teach Knuckles the ways of Earth’s joys while Knuckles trains him to become a warrior. Along the way, Knuckles will soon learn how to deliver pop culture references too.

Meanwhile, a black-market buyer (Rory McCann) with nefarious intentions enlists two rogue GUN agents, Mason (Scott Mescudi) and Willoughby (Ellie Taylor), to hunt down Knuckles. The buyer seeks to exploit Knuckles' electromagnetic power to fuel his robotic creations, a motivation reminiscent of Robotnik's in the first movie.

Knuckles resembles the first Sonic movie if broken down into six parts, reusing many of the same buddy-road-trip beats. It is another "fish out of water" story in which the titular Echidna slowly gravitates toward Earth's customs and learns a thing or two about belonging, this time through the guise of a Judd Apatow protagonist archetype. The miniseries tonally aligns with the movies but on a sillier wavelength, lending to stylish ambitions.

Diverting from the blandness of the "Sonic" film's plotting, the writing emphasizes visual gags on a larger imaginative scale. It often works due to the buddy duo's witty personas. Something that sounds as tragic as Wade overcoming his abandonment issues becomes a recurring joke that works due to the show's outlandish nature. The series features a whole, hilarious rock-opera-centric episode with Pally wearing a Knuckles costume, singing and dancing to an original glam rock tune featuring a certain silky-smooth singer and a major reference to “Sonic '06,” the worst Sonic game ever made. 

The writers refine Knuckles' character to his benefit, diverting his muscle-head dim-witted traits into a confident and jovial guy with a heart of gold—an echidna himbo, if you will. And while I found the ever-so-funny Pally to be the weak point in the features, his silly demeanor, tied with Knuckle's battle-ready persona, makes for some decent comedy. Their chemistry is even funnier and sweeter than anything between Sonic and James Marsden's Tom Wakowski.

Beyond the full-throated weirdness of the writing, including several funny character actors in supporting roles also elevates the comedy. Knuckles' Whipple family members, Wendy (Stockard Channing) and sister Wanda (the uproarious Edi Patterson), become more prominent in the series following an episode where Knuckles and Wade attend their Shabbat dinner—and Wendy tries to investigate Knuckles' Jewish lineage. It's as bizarre as it sounds, but in the grand scheme of this silly Sonic cinematic universe, it fits like a white glove.

Right on the cusp of the third Sonic installment coming this Christmas, the Knuckles spin-off is a well-rounded diversion to please fans of this gonzo movieverse. While it functions largely as a streaming-only a clone of the first film, it displays a personality missing from the mainline movies by veering into welcoming absurdism and whimsy. 

Whole series screened for review. Premieres on April 26th.

Rendy Jones

Rendy Jones (they/he) is a film and television journalist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published independent outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics' Choice Association, GALECA, and a part time stand-up comedian.

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