POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU is the latest film from director Rob Letterman (Goosebumps) and is a live-action adaptation based on the insanely popular Pokémon franchise. The film stars Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool), Justice Smith (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Kathryn Newton (Lady Bird, TV’s Big Little Lies), Suki Waterhouse (Insurgent), Omar Chaparro (Overboard), Chris Greere (TV’s Modern Family), Ken Watanabe (Godzilla, The Last Samurai), and Bill Nighy (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1).
The story begins when ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim (Justice Smith) to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds): a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to work together, as Tim is the only human who can talk with Pikachu, they join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City – a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world – they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe. (Warner Bros Official Synopsis)
Full disclosure, I’m not a Pokémon person nor do I know much about Pokémon, to begin with. Luckily for those of us who find themselves in this boat, POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU is easily digestible by both fans and non-fans alike. Having had a small bit of knowledge in regards to Pokémon (because my brother used to be obsessed), I was able to pick up on some of the more fan serviced aspects of the film. Meanwhile, my boyfriend who had no knowledge of Pokémon whatsoever was also able to understand and enjoy the movie as a whole. The film does a terrific job by not being overly pandering to its fan so as to allow for those of us new to the fandom a chance to become immersed in the vast world of Pokémon.
As for the film itself, I thought it was really cute. I’m sure that’s not an adjective that you all want to hear, but it’s very cute. Surprisingly, the film is also very dark and extremely heartfelt. The only thing that I found lacking was the humor which was very unexpected. The trailers definitely indicated that the film would be filled with humor, and though it tries, I think the issue was that the jokes just didn’t stick. There were a few times I found myself laughing, but as a whole, I felt the film had a more serious tone as opposed to a more wacky, fun one. That’s not to say the movie is bad, it was just a tone I wasn’t expecting. The majority of the film is really about Tim (Justice Smith) finding himself and his place in this world. We find out early on that he doesn’t have a Pokémon “partner” and that is tied into the fact that his father, who wasn’t around when he was young, spent more time at work with his Pokémon partner than he did with his kid. Anyone who has dealt with a parent that isn’t around can easily relate to those feelings that Tim has as well as his built-up resentment towards the father he never got to know.
Ryan Reynolds shines as Pikachu and though it’s hard to get the image of his performance of Deadpool out of my head, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the juxtaposition between this cute creature speaking in Ryan Reynolds voice. Also, I thought Justice Smith was fantastic as he truly spearheaded this film with his performance that was both relatable and genuine. However, in terms of Pokémon creatures, the real MVP is Psyduck. I never thought there would be a moment where I could say that I relate to anything Pokémon but god damn. Psyduck is my hero and I truly believe that if I were to be reincarnated into a Pokémon, it would be that one. My only critique in regards to these creatures is that I wish we had more time with them because some of them were really amazing. The creepy purple monkey things? Pure nightmare fuel. Jigglypuff singing karaoke? Give me more! I can only imagine that there will be more Pokémon movies in the future which will dive into some of the other creatures and honestly, I’m all about it.
So how does POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU rank? It’s a cute, fun, and heartfelt film that will appeal to both kids and adults. I will admit that I was let down a bit as I had higher expectations for the humor, but overall, I think kids, mainly, will get a huge kick out of the film and fans will enjoy finding all the Easter Eggs and callbacks. In terms of horror, there really isn’t any, but there are some creatures that are rather unsettling, as well as moments of tension and violence along with a nefarious villain – plus, creepy purple monkey things. Along with the heartfelt message of the film, there is a mystery at hand that needs to get solved and the ever-present question of how can Pikachu be a detective? As the mystery unfolds and the clues are solved, the reasoning behind how Pikachu can talk, as well as the perplexing death of Tim’s dad, comes to a head, making for quite an enjoyable viewing experience (that includes a dash of neo-noir thrown in). With all that said, if you are burnt out from seeing Avengers: Endgame 17 times in the last week, I would definitely suggest giving POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU a chance when it’s released in theaters this Friday, May 10.