Story: Twenty-something Tim is told his estranged father Harry died under mysterious circumstances. When he heads to Ryme City, a place where Pokémon and humans live in harmony, Tim is told his father may still be alive… And hey, what’s that rustle in his dad’s apartment? “Pika Pika!”
Genre I’d put it in: Fun And Serviceable Game Adaptations
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the Pokémon game/film/everything franchise.
Gotta say: I love me some Pokémon Go. I ain’t ashamed. But I don’t know much about the competitive games, nor the television series or film spinoffs. You might say I’ve found my niche and glued myself to it. Bearing that small amount of knowledge of the franchise, Detective is everything this Mystic trainer could have imagined. Is it a bit formulaic and fan-service-y? Sure. But it’s for kids and game lovers. So sit back and enjoy watching all your favorite ‘mons “live” on the big screen.
Okay, CGI on the big screen. But dang the FX here make these creatures look pretty darn convincing. There’s a childlike aura about them – no hyper-realistic Jungle Book live-action vibe here – still, if the Pokémon I catch on the reg were to suddenly come to life, this movie pretty much nails it. And they fit right in with the Big Hero 6 meets Blade Runner look of Ryme City.
The plot is a simple one; Tim has to figure out what happened to his dad. Detective Pikachu – father Harry’s Pokémon – has to regain his memories. While “regular” Pokémon only seem to say their names – they’re easily understandable to other Pokémon though, kinda like Groot – Detective Pikachu seems to speak perfectly understandable English to Tim. Nobody else can hear that though, so cue the “who are you talking to?” shenanigans!
Ryan Reynolds does a great job voicing the faithful, coffee-addicted Pikachu, nicely balancing humor and gravitas. (Tim’s father is missing and presumed dead, after all.) You could say RR has been riding the Van Wilder/Deadpool thing, and while there’s plenty of cheeky irreverent humor here, there are glimmers of his more dramatic work. (Seriously y’all, go check out Life and Woman in Gold. You’re welcome.)
As Tim, Justice Smith (no relation to Will’s clan) is an adorably normcore guy who’s been trying to bury his love of Pokémon away after the death of his mom. Pretty deep stuff for a story that’s supposedly geared to kids, but it’s relatable and never gets so heavy that it negatively affects the plot. Smith has a nice rapport with Reynolds, and that easygoing chemistry sells the bond between the two characters.
Shout out to Billy Nighy as Big Rich Guy Howard Clifford, and Ken Watanabe as Harry’s friend Detective Hideo Yoshida. (I love that Watanabe teams up with a gruff but loyal Snubbull. It feels right.) And as Lucy, the requisite nosy journalist and love interest, Kathryn Newton (Blockers) has fun with her no-nonsense reporter. And I love that uptight Lucy’s Pokémon is a Psyduck; a Pokémon that can literally explode under stress. Kismet? Definitely.
Problems? Eh, sure. As with most films geared toward kids, the plot is simplistic and rather boilerplate. But then again so’s most action flick stories, and they tend to be fun and engaging. Same kinda thing here. It’s a simple story, but the performers make it a fun ride. There’s lots of fan-service for all the gamers/fans out there, which adds a touch of fun to set-up and expository scenes. C’mon; how epic is the idea that Loudreds are DJ’s? Or Growlithe and Arcanine can be seen at the police station, working their shifts?
The story wraps predictably, but it’s a sweet sendoff for the characters that keeps the door open just enough to let a sequel slip through if the creators are feeling it. A sequel? I wouldn’t hate that idea. More Psyduck, please!
#Protip: Play Pokémon Go? Well, you’ve now got a fun new t-shirt and Pikachu detective hat in your style wardrobe, and you’ll get chances to catch the li’l detective when you use your camera. Happy hunting! #TeamMystic