Movie Review: ‘Pokémon: Detective Pikachu’

Director: Rob Letterman

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy

Plot: When investigating into his detective father’s disappearance, Tim Goodman finds himself partnering with a caffeine addicted amnesiac pikachu. Perplexingly Tim is able to understand what this pikachu is saying.

Review: I’ve found it hard to work up the motivation to write this review, because I know it’s not going to sway you one way or the other. Not that that’s my goal, but you have already decided if you’re going to see it or not. Either you’re a Pokémon fan and excited about the combined uniqueness of a live action adaptation with possible nostalgia value or you never saw the appeal. I’ve personally had some involvement with the franchise – played a few of the early games and watched some of the anime. I’m not terribly invested.

From what I can tell, the design of the Pokémon look to be very respectful of the source material. It can’t have been straightforward, translating these creatures from very simply drawn and cartoonish visuals to photo-realistic designs that will blend into a fairly modern looking world without scary the bejesus out of everyone. I think the best decision they made was hiring RJ Palmer, whose ‘Realistic Pokémon’ fan-art has often gone viral around the internet to work on concept art. They’ve struck a good balance between the cartoon style and realism. Excellent work right here.

If you’re only looking to see beloved creatures brought to life for the first time on the big screen then the quality of the effects will make it worth while. If you need more than this you’ll be found a bit wanting. They’ve made a valiant attempt at recreating the Noir story tropes, but falls short of success leaving us with a poor man’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Tim (Smith) is a bit too wooden to be truly sympathetic, and they aren’t quite sure what to do with the love interest, Lucy (Newton), after sanding down the sharp corners of Noir to make it family friendly. The evil villains scheme is also…pointless. His personal goal is clear, but he also forces this outcome on everyone else in the city for no benefit or reason. We suspect he’s just a fan of Burton’s Batman.

As you’d expect, Ryan Reynolds’ providing the voice and motion capture for the titular pikachu (is ‘pikachu’ a proper noun? It’s both the species and name…). He’s a lot of fun and you get the distinct impression that they let him run off-script here and there.

When we try to sum up this film we start to see parallels with Avatar. Visual excellence and entertaining actors, but slim on the script front. It’s a fun outing, maybe best suited to 8 years and older as our 6 year old found some of the feral pokémon sequences to be too intense.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN

She might have a point…