Dan's Review: "Pokémon: Detective Pikachu" is worth catching
May 11, 2019 09:20PM
By Dan Metcalf
Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith in Pokémon Detective Pikachu - © 2019 Warner Bros.
Detective Pikachu (Warner Bros.)
Rated PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, and thematic elements.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe, Chris Geere, Rita Ora, Ikue Ōtani (voice), Max Fincham, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Karan Soni, Rob Delaney, Khary Payton, Diplo, Ryoma Takeuchi.
Written by Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman, Derek Connolly, Nicole Perlman.
Directed by Rob Letterman.
I recall vividly the first time I ever fell asleep while watching a movie in a theater. It was winter 1999, and the film was Pokémon: The First Movie, which my son (then, an enthusiastic 10-year-old Pokémon aficionado, possessing a robust three-ring binder full of Pokémon cards) had insisted on seeing. Leading up to the viewing, my arrivals at home after work almost always consisted of hearing that “Gotta Catch ‘em All” theme song that played in the opening credits of the daily TV series viewing at my house, not to mention the copious amounts of card purchases I’d financed. Needless to say, I was not a willing participant in the theater that day, and the boredom of the cut-rate anime, coupled with the less-than-dynamic plot, rendered me comatose before the third act. With all this detachment from the Pokémon culture, you’d think I might be primed to dislike Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, arriving in theaters this weekend, but time has a way of changing perspective, as does significant upgrades in the quality of the film experience.
It’s the story of Tim, a young man who once dreamed of becoming a Pokémon trainer until the untimely death of his mother and consequent estrangement from his police detective father, who moved to Ryme City, where Pokémon and humans live together in harmony. When his dad is reported dead after an attack by a “Mewtoo” Pokémon, Tim travels to Ryme City to settle his dad’s affairs and meets Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), a Pokémon who claims to be his deceased dad’s partner. Due to some sort of unexplained cosmic mechanism, Tim is able to understand Pikachu, which is apparently impossible for any other human, as Pokémon usually are only able to utter their name. Despite suffering from amnesia, Pikachu convinces Tim to help uncover the truth behind his dad’s death, a journey that leads them to Ryme City’s founder Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), a billionaire visionary who conceived the idea of bringing Pokémon and humans together, instead of engaging on Pokémon battles for sport. Something does not seem right with Clifford and his son Roger (Chris Geere), and Tim are joined by an up-and-coming TV news intern named Lucy (Kathryn Newton) in their quest to uncover a sinister plot involving Mewtoo. Their investigation leads to Clifford and his son, one of whom is apparently exploiting Mewtoo’s powers for a secret new agenda.
First of all, I’m happy to report that I made it through Pokémon: Detective Pikachu without drifting off. That’s because it’s a mostly delightful film with a few moments of excitement, complimented by a great vocal performance from Ryan Reynolds, who provides most of the humor. There are a few other elements of Detective Pikachu that are at the very least interesting, especially the visual effects that bring the Pokémon to life.
Even so, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu has a narrow (yet large) target audience (somewhere between the ages of 6 and 29), so if you can’t tell the difference between a “Squirtle” and a “Charizard,” you might not appreciate the cultural context. I don’t really like using critical “qualifiers” in my reviews, but Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is certainly a movie narrowly tailored for fans of the card game and original cartoon series – and not many others.
"Pokémon: Detective Pikachu" Trailer.