“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” takes place in a world where powerful creatures known as Pokémon live alongside humans. Just about everybody has one as his or her partner, all except for Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a young man who has little interest in Pokémon. All he wants to do is live in his small town and work at his simple job. However, when he receives news that his father has been killed, he departs for the big metropolis known as Ryme City to collect his father’s things. Upon arriving though, he discovers a small yellow Pikachu in his father’s apartment, one that can actually talk to him.
As if finding a talking Pokémon wasn’t already shocking enough, Tim’s problems only escalate when he learns his father is still alive. If he’s going to find him, however, Tim will have to trace his Dad’s steps and search through the seedy underbelly of Ryme City in order to learn what his father was investigating and how it led to his disappearance. But into order to undertake this challenge, he’s going to need the help of the one and only world-class private eye with electric powers—Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds). The film also features Bill Nighy and Ken Watanabe.
So, this was an odd one. Just about everything I summarized sounded odd, right? Well, I suppose it only makes sense that any movie about Pokémon would be odd. For those who may not know, Pokémon—or Pocket Monsters as it’s known in Japan—is a franchise that was created by the famous Japanese gaming company known as Nintendo. While starting out as a videogame for the Game Boy back in 1996, the Pokémon name has grown into Nintendo’s most successful franchise, with card games, toys, an Anime, dozens of spin-off games, and even, I kid you not, a live musical. Yes, that existed—look it up. On second thought, don’t do that. My point is, for better or worse, Pokémon has grown into one of the few franchises that bridge the age and cultural gap, with fans of all ages from around the world; and still continues with more games coming out this year.
Now, as a non-fan to this franchise, I’m going to look at its first live action film with an outside perspective. I have to admit, when I first heard about this movie, I rolled my eyes and was ready to pass on it, until I saw the trailer and noticed two things—the designs of the creatures, and Ryan Reynolds name attached to it. So, I gave the film a fair look and after seeing it, I’m glad I did.
As for what “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” did right, well let’s talk about the most obvious thing—the visual effects. The creators behind this film took the cartoony designs from the games and recreated them in a realistic manner that helps them fit in the live action movie. Realistic is the key word here. They made an effort in incorporating these creatures into a living breathing world, without changing the familiar designs that fans recognize. Although it helps that the artistic designs were created from the artwork of the talented concept artist and illustrator RJ Palmer.
Now, as for the story, it’s not the most gripping tale I’ve seen, but for a children’s movie, it gets a pass. It’s nice to see a fantasy film that adds a mystery feel to it. After all, most stories that take place in another world usually focus on larger than life adventures and big epic battles, whereas “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is more about giving us a mystery tale in a fantasy world—a decision I applaud the creators for doing. Plus, I’ll admit the mystery did have a twist or two I did not see coming.
The last thing I have to talk about is the title character and the actor playing him. Ryan Reynolds is one of those actors who has a distinctive voice you can recognize without even seeing his face. After all, he’s had plenty of experience through his work in the “Deadpool” films. And this isn’t one of those movies where a big star was under contract or was only doing it for the paycheck either. He legit wanted this role. While this certainly isn’t a role I could have foreseen in his career, oddly enough, he may have been the best pick. Hearing his humorously grumpy voice mixed with sarcastic wit fits the character perfectly, and the animation only enhances it. The photo-realistic design, with detailed fur, right down to his brow, all fluently weave together; and is just another point in the film’s favor for the amount of effort pooled into it. And… fine, I’ll admit it! He’s also adorable! There! I said it!
“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is rated PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, along with thematic elements. This movie had every reason to be an absolute bomb, yet the effort onscreen shows that with a willing crew and a good star, a film based on any franchise can be done well. Creating a fun mystery story for kids that’s not too complicated, and I guarantee diehard fans of the franchise will love it. Which is why the final score for “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is a 7.5 out of 10.