Review: Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

Based on the popular Pokémon game and the 2016 video game Detective Pikachu, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is the story of Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) searching for his father with the help of an adorable Pokémon named Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds).

In this fantasy world, Ryme City is a major metropolitan city – think New York, London, and Tokyo rolled into one. Ryme City encourages humans and Pokémon living together. Most of the citizens  are paired with a Pokémon After Tim’s father goes missing, he gets help from a Pokémon named Pikachu who claims to be the world’s best detective and is also his father’s partner on the police force.

Tim and Pikachu’s relationship is a little different, Unlike other humans and Pokémon relationships, Tim can hear Pikachu when he speaks. Their unique bond is a helpful tool as they search Ryme City for Tim’s father, it also leads to a lot of jokes.

With the help of a local reporter named Lucy (Kathryn Newton), Tim and Pikachu follow clues in hopes of solving the case. Their search exposes an evil plot that would threaten the relationship between Pokémon and humans forever.

A few minutes of Detective Pikachu and it’s  clear this is a film for fans of Pokémon. There are easter eggs, jokes, and references that a Pokémon novice may not pick up  – all of that happens in the film’s first few minutes. It’s a Pokémon game come to life that will please everyone form the casual fan to the crazed enthusiast. People unfamiliar with the fandom will miss out on a few jokes and the numerous “Ah-ha” easter egg moments sprinkled throughout the film.

The plot follows the template used in other buddy-cop kid’s movies.  From Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, to Wreck it Ralph and Zootopia, animated detective stories will always resonate with kids.They’re extended versions of the 22 min Saturday morning cartoons a lot of people grew up on. Grounding the story in an popular international game like Pokémon is just icing on the cake. Our Saturday morning cartoons were made to sell toys. Now, games like Pokémon are being used to sell movies.

As familiar as the plot is, the story is fun and exciting for kids. There’s enough gumshoe detective work and scenes with Pikachu being funny to keep story engaging in moments when it might not be entertaining.

Justice Smith does a great job acting alongside a CGI character for 90+ minutes. Smith does most of the film’s heavy lifting by carrying heavy dialogue scenes while he’s surrounded by fully CGI characters. Reynolds as Pikachu and Smith have the best onscreen chemistry. As silly as Reynolds wisecracking on-liners can be, his banter is often the only thing that keeps moviegoers invested in what’s happening. Reynolds delivers a PG Deadpool performance. At times, it feels very one-note but it is pitch perfect for this film.

There are no surprises in Detective Pikachu. It’s a fun movie for fans of Pokémon. The popular Pokémon world comes to life on the big screen.  The film is also a  vehicle for Ryan Reynolds to fire off jokes every 60 seconds. If you’re not a Ryan Reynolds fan, this may not be the film for you. Most of all, it’s a kids movie that the entire family can enjoy. Even if you know nothing about Pokémon, there’s still plenty of laughs and fun to be had.

Grade: B-