‘Pokemon Detective Pikachu’ Review

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

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‘Goosebumps’ Review

goosebumps

Director: Rob Letterman

Writer: Darren Lemke

Cast: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell, Ken Marino, Halston Sage, and Amy Ryan.

Synopsis: A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R.L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

If you’re in the right age range, you probably grew up reading the Goosebumps books like I did. R.L. Stine was a one of my favorite authors growing up and I loved the books, and the TV show. When I first read that they were doing a Goosebumps movie though, I was a little hesitant. What exactly would they bring to the big screen and what kind of approach they would take? The movie has been in the works for years but never reach anything but planning stages. Then I saw Jack Black was cast as R.L. Stine I became reluctant, but now after watching Goosebumps, I can happily say, I was wrong about the film and it was a ton of fun to watch.

Goosebumps follows Zach (Minnette) and his mom Gale (Ryan) as they move to a new town of Madison, Delaware for Gale’s new job of being vice president at Zach’s new school. While Zach tries to adjust to his new life he meets one of his neighbors in Hannah (Rush). The two hit it off right away and spend a night having fun and getting to know each other. However, Hannah is scuttled away by her over-protective father “Mr. Shivers” (Black). The next night, Zach hears scream from Hannah’s house and enlists a friend he met at school in Champ (Lee) to rush over and see what’s going on. Once there, they find a shelf filled with Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine and that they are locked. When Hannah comes in the room and scares them, they accidently open one of the books, which happens to be the abominable snowman (of Pasadena).

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Zach and Champ then find out that Mr. Shivers is indeed R.L. Stine and Hannah is his daughter. Unfortunately, they have little time to breath as Stine’s worst fears have come true: All his creations are set free by the ventriloquist dummy Slappy (voiced by Jack Black as well). Zach, Hannah, Champ and Stine now have to work together and save the town from being destroyed.

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The approach of making Stine a character in the movie is pretty clever in the sense that Stine has to face his own creations and fight them to save his own skin, it also makes a little more sense than making multiple films with different characters and storylines or even an anthology film – although that would awesome to see too. Also, the fact that we get to see multiple of Stine’s creations together was the best way to go really. Of course, all his creations are lead by, arguably, Stine’s most popular villain in Slappy, who takes the role of main bad guy in the film. The reasoning behind him taking the big bad role isn’t just for being bad and taking over the world, which they could, but rather revenge on Stine for locking them away.

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Of course, the books were always creepy and scary for some probably, and some of that thankfully carries over to the film. It is a kids movie that is rated PG by the way, so it’s toned down horror. There are some pop-up moments, I’ll admit that one even got me, but even for a kids movie the “horror” moments could please fans of Goosebumps. There’s also a nice mix of old school horror too. There are some nice visuals in the film as well, but some of the CGI does get wonky at times, to point that it does become a bit distracting compared to the other better CG. They also used practical effects, which is welcomed since they could have gone strictly CG, especially for Slappy. Goosebumps is also, surprisingly, more funnier than I thought it would be, and it’s not kid’s movie funny, it is actually genuinely funny with some jokes I wasn’t expecting.

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What makes Goosebumps work though is the cast. The main adult cast of Amy Ryan and Jillian Bell as Gale and Zach’s aunt Lorraine, respectively, have their moments with Bell being more of the standout between the two. Ken Marino pops in as coach, Halston Sage as Champ’s sort love-interest, and Timothy Simons and Amanda Lund as the towns cops that have some funny moments at the beginning of the film. Of course, the big adult cast member is Jack Black as the famous author R.L. Stine. He doe serviceable as Stine, coming off as intense and standoffish at the start toward Zach and everyone else, but opens up a little more especially near the end of the film. However, he does get lost in the shuffle a bit with all the craziness and the focus being on the younger trio.

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Speaking of that, our three main leads are what make this film so fun, enjoyable, and make the biggest impacts in the film. Ryan Lee is a great comic relief and has great comedic timing and plays well off Dylan Minnette and Jack Black. Dylan Minnette, who I’ve only seen in a few things personally, is believable as the lead here and his chemistry with Odeya Rush’s Hannah is spot on. Finally, Odeya Rush’s Hannah is a strong part of the group and isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with her father’s creations.

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There is also an interesting twist in the film that was intriguing to see play out, and the cast handled it pretty well. It’s also something that isn’t just thrown in at the end. Looking back, it was touched on at the beginning of the film very subtly and it actually ties in the whole film together and connects a theme that I won’t spoil here.

All in all, Goosebumps is a lot more fun and enjoyable than I first thought it would be and probably how you thought it would be. It’s a fun family film and while Jack Black may be on all the promotion material, he is the biggest star in the film, besides Slappy, the film belongs to the young cast of Minnette, Rush and Lee. Also, what’s not to like to see some of R.L. Stine’s work come to life?

 

Goosebumps

4 out of 5