The popular Sonic the Hedgehog series of films has created its first spin-off television show.

The show picks up where the second Sonic film ends. Knuckles and Tails are living with Sonic. Knuckles is struggling to fit into Earth life.

Ben Schwartz is back as Sonic to narrate our way into this side story. Much of the film’s cast also returns in the early going. In addition to the cast, the animation and production values from the film series are back as well. The quality here is indistinguishable from what you could find in the theater.

But all the special effects money could buy wouldn’t help if Adam Pally and Idris Elba weren’t back at full power.

Elba plays Knuckles, an alien echidna from a strong warrior culture (think Star Trek’s Klingons) who was recruited as a bad guy in the last film but (spoiler alert) turned around to the good side by the end of the film.

Pally plays Wade, a less-than-effective police officer whose good heart is usually overpowered by his clumsiness and aversion to conflict. While the material is certainly childish, both actors seem to be giving everything they’ve got to the role, and you can’t help but be mesmerized by their performances.

The two Sonic the Hedgehog films are among the most family-friendly major motion pictures of the last several years. They portray Sonic learning and growing due to adoption by a stable family with a helpful mother and father presence.

But Knuckles is taking on a very different theme.

Knuckles is struggling to adapt to life on Earth, and Sonic’s family is struggling to continue to keep him. Wade was just kicked off his bowling team because he was intimidated by an eight-year-old competitor.

Knuckles’ alien chieftain appears (Christopher Lloyd delightfully hamming it up) to give Knuckles the mission of teaching Wade to be a warrior.

Instead of the power of family, the TV series seems to be leaning into the power of friendship and how our differences can help one another—worthy themes to be sure, if not quite as necessary and poignant as those from the film.

It seems obvious that as the plot progresses, Wade will learn to adopt Knuckles’ confidence, and Knuckles will learn to adopt Wade’s sociability.

The pilot ends with Knuckles being kidnapped, and Wade being thrust into a position to save him. One obvious weakness compared to the films is the missing Mr. Robotnik. Jim Carrey’s campy villain was always a highlight. Here, he’s been replaced as a villain by a forgettable US Agent who’s gone rogue without much motivation or style. She does appear to be working with “The Buyer” played by Rory McCann. He has only a passing role in the pilot, but early signs suggest he could grow into a delightfully larger-than-life foe for our heroes to test their personal growth against.

The show definitely involved cartoon violence of a kind (if not quite as large) with that in the films. And it shares the same playful, if mischievous spirit. I’d be happy to let me 5-8 year old kids watch it, but I’d also be a bit worried they might jump off the couch shouting a Knuckles catchphrase in the next few days.

If you and your family have enjoyed the Sonic the Hedgehog films, this series lives up to them in nearly every way and can make for some enjoyable family viewing. I’ll likely watch it with my kids tonight. Four out of five stars.

Knuckles is available to stream on Paramount Plus from Friday, April 26, 2024.