Director: Rob Letterman
Writers: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Derek Connolly and Rob Letterman
Cast: Ryan Reynolds (voice), Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Chris Geere, Rita Ora, Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy
Synopsis: In a world where people collect Pokemon to do battle, a boy comes across an intelligent talking Pikachu who seeks to be a detective.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
I, like many my age – no matter how bad you want to deny it – grew up watching and playing Pokemon. It’s something that, somehow, has remained in nerd culture through new generations and fans still bringing it up. If it wasn’t apparent, when Pokemon GO came out, the thing spread like wildfire and was a craze that I think people wouldn’t happened (do people still play it? Serious question, not bashing). It was because of the GO craze, Warner Bros. and Legendary decided to jump on it and announce they were developing a Pokemon movie, and they were choosing to do the Detective Pikachu route.
I’ll be honest; I wasn’t fully onboard with the idea at first. I thought Hollywood would bastardize one of my childhood favorites with another crappy CGI/live-action hybrid movie that would probably water down what made the property so good and memorable. Then the trailers came out and I was fully onboard. So, did Pokemon Detective Pikachu live up to the expectations the studio put out? Or does the video game curse continue?
Pokemon Detective Pikachu follows Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a once aspiring Pokemon trainer, who suddenly gets a call informing him that his estranged detective father has been killed in a car crash. While going through his father’s apartment, he runs into a talking Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), who claims to be his father’s Pokemon partner, but can’t remember anything since he has amnesia, expect one thing – Tim’s father isn’t dead, but only missing.
The two decide to embark on a journey to find out what happened to Tim’s father, who was on the verge of breaking something huge. Along the way, they helped by Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), an intern at the big news corporation, who has a nose for a good story, who also has her Pokemon, Psyduck, with her at all times. What follows is Pokemon shenanigans, world building, and a mystery buddy-cop film.
Detective Pikachu’s staying power is going to be interesting to see. On one hand, the movie is jam packed with Easter Eggs for the hardcore fans, to the point that you may need to watch it twice to catch some of them. On the other, non-fans will maybe have at least a little bit of a hard time with the world they are thrown into. Because, director Rob Letterman wastes no time filling the screen with Pokemon. Once we get pass the cold opening and Tim’s introduction, which shows him trying to catch a Cubone after being forced by a friend, we go straight into Ryme City.
Ryme City is the creation of Bill Nighy’s Howard Clifford, a city where Pokemon and humans coexist together. The Pokemon fill the city streets and hold jobs like everyone else. It’s here where most of the Pokemon are shown, and I’m sure fans will have a field day trying to name them all. It’s also not filled with generation one Pokemon, there were Pokemon there I didn’t even know or recognize. Dare I say, it’s almost Who Framed Roger Rabbit-esque in its story and format, and Blade Runner in terms of visual look for the first half of the movie.
All that said, Detective Pikachu can’t just thrive on the Pokemon, it is trying to tell a story. Smith’s Tim is charismatic enough to push the story along and his chemistry with Reynolds’ voiced Pikachu keeps the movie going until the credits roll. Newton’s Lucy is a hard buy at first, as her character seems to be pulled from the old noir films – which the film does try to be for the most part – but then becomes the ambitious news reporter, even though she’s really an unpaid intern, by trying to break the case along with Tim, Pikachu and her Psyduck.
Of course, the highlight of the cast and the movie is Ryan Reynolds as the talking Pikachu. Reynolds is always reliable for witty, crisp delivered one-liners, and he brings that with Pikachu, and while he’s not foul-mouthed like Deadpool – although Reynolds said there are R-rated outtakes enough a movie – Reynolds’ Pikachu genuinely funny. Plus, the chemistry he has time Smith, despite the live-action and human interaction differences, is fantastic.
All the fun aside, Detective Pikachu does have some faults that keep it from being a good movie to a great movie. The movie’s story gets a little too ridiculous for its own good in the third act, and despite some cool Pokemon action, it doesn’t really justify the direction of the story, although you might be able to guess where it was headed at some point. Of course, there is the big one – do you need to know anything about Pokemon to enjoy the movie? Sort of. Knowing little things about the world could be helpful in some moments and situations while watching the events unfold, but not knowing them should affect your enjoyment.
Then there are the tonal shifts. The first ten, fifteen minutes of the movie is pretty much a drama with Tim dealing with the loss of his father, but then Pikachu is introduced and the movie becomes a comedy. But then Tim’s story comes back and the movie stops everything to have a drama beat, and then go right back to comedy. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the movie missteps on balancing the two sometimes. To get a little nit-picky, despite the amazing designs of the all the Pokemon, and how amazingly truthful they are, there some times with they look just a tad bit wonky, again, nit-picky.
All in all, Pokemon Detective Pikachu is a fun entertaining movie that you’ll enjoy whether or not you know anything about the Pokemon lore or franchise. The story is a little flimsy by the end, but it’s the core cast of Justice Smith’s Tim, Kathryn Newton’s Lucy and Ryan Reynolds’ Pikachu that will keep you invested from beginning to end. Pika Pika.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu
4 out of 5