It’s always nice when they decide to make a film about something you loved as a child. The 80’s kids have been spoiled with it for a while now. Now it is time for us 2000’s kids to get our shot. Pokémon was my childhood full on. Who didn’t play the games, traded the cards, and won eight gym badges (ok, the last one just me). Now they made a movie about this franchise starring Deadpool, well Ryan Reynolds. It can’t be bad right? No, it certainly isn’t, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get dangerously close. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is a cute and cuddly adventure that coasts on its charm in substitution of a completely satisfying story.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu takes us through the eyes of Tim, a down on his luck kid who works as an insurance salesman after giving up on his dream of being a Pokémon trainer. After the mysterious death of his father, Tim returns to Rhyme City to visit his apartment where he meets an electric mouse named Pikachu who also happens to be a detective. Here’s the catch, Tim and Pikachu can understand each other and for the first time human and Pokémon can communicate. They set off on an adventure to find the real reason behind Tim’s father’s death. This is the part of the film they should have put their attention behind. They set up this neo-noir story in a world full of Pokémon that had the potential to be interesting, unfortunately, the film has other interests it would rather focus on other than the main plot.
What Pokémon: Detective Pikachu suffers the most from is “Hey! Look over here” syndrome. Meaning they flash you with something we want to see in order to cover up mistakes the film is making and wow, did it ever get me. Like, here is this convoluted plot point but damnit, Pikachu holding that tiny coffee cup with his tiny hands is adorable. You forget about just how surface level this plot is or how the villain is terrible because a pack of Bulbasaur’s show up in a like a family and make me melt in my seat. What the film does care about that really works is the worldbuilding. Fans of Pokémon have always known just how much potential this franchise holds in live action form and now that it is here, totally pays off. This is a world where humans and Pokémon coexist, I dare anyone to watch this film and not want a Pokémon partner of their own. Some work jobs, while others do underground battles (which does become a bit immoral since it is against the Pokémon’s will), but Jigglypuff as a struggling lounge singer is too cute. There is goes again. The point of all of this is, yeah there are structural issues and problems with the plot, but the world is so contagious and adorable to where it sucks you in and you never want to leave. You can tell the filmmakers have a passion for the product and it shows.
A final point is to address the star of the film and that is Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu. Hearing the voice in the trailer makes you take a step back at first. You wonder if he is just going to be Deadpool in Pikachu’s body and while he kind of is, it is in a PG-12 form and works perfectly for the character. This is the perfect voice I never knew I needed. Pikachu is snarky and quick with incredible timing and that is thanks to the wonderful voice work of Reynolds. Justice Smith is fine, I still don’t see him as a leading man yet, but he has time to grow. By the end, however, you care about his bond with Pikachu, so he does get a payoff. The human that is a star is Kathryn Newton. She is fantastic as an over the top reporter searching for a story and she hams it up to a believable level. She brings the charisma Smith lacks and their balance really works for the story.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is a delightful adventure that sets up a world you want to live in. There are problems and flaws that very much bring down the film but Pikachu holding a magnifying glass with his little hat on is so adorable I have nothing negative left to say. This is sure to be a successful franchise and hopefully, they expand further on the world more and focus on the story in the next film. The inner child in me is smiling from Pikachu ear to ear.
The Verdict: 3 out of 5 Stars