Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy
Director: Rob Letterman
To say that video game movies have had a difficult history is very obvious and would probably be a surprise to no one. Every once in a while, one of these movies ends up being at the very least serviceable and somewhat enjoyable, and it looks like Pokemon Detective Pikachu might be this year’s example. I had my hesitations about a live-action Pokemon movie and the initial animation didn’t exactly look inspiring, but what we actually got was something entertaining to audiences of all ages, especially fans of Pokemon. Reynolds gives another impressive leading performance and shows us that even with a more family-friendly source material he can still be funny and also carry the story to where it needs to go.
The film follows Tim Goodman (Smith), an insurance salesman whose police detective father died during one of his investigations. While Tim is packing up his father’s apartment, he stumbles across a Pikachu (voiced by Reynolds) that can understand him and communicate with him in a way other Pokemon can’t. Together, they team up to do their own investigation into Tim’s father’s death and discover a world that they knew very little about. As with almost all of his other films, Reynolds is once again the standout performance, and it’s even more impressive considering that he’s the only real voice actor in this movie. Reynolds takes his unique style of humor and makes the most of his character even without being physically in the movie. At moments, it felt like some of the lines that didn’t make it into the Deadpool movies ended up here, because there are some very adult jokes by Reynolds. I don’t mind them because it makes the experience more enjoyable as an adult viewer, but I can see families getting upset when their children start asking questions they’re too young to be asking. Outside of Reynolds, the one thing some viewers may not like is that this movie has a barrier of entry in order to watch it. People with more knowledge of Pokemon and how it works will be able to enjoy this movie more than those who have no knowledge of the game, but unlike other video game adapted movies, this one may be harder to comprehend than say Tomb Raider. Moving on to the story, it tends to be pretty formulaic and you can most of the plot coming before it happens. There are a few twists here and there, but they are fairly obvious when you look back in hindsight. At the same time, it’s hard to judge this film on its story when I don’t really think the movie was trying to make the most original movie of all time. I think this movie exists mainly to serve as a 104 minute fluff piece that capitalizes off of the fandom of one of the most successful and recognizable video game franchises of all time. When it’s all said and done, Pokemon Detective Pikachu does what it set out to do and should be able to please most fans out there.
Overall, if you’re looking for a summer movie that your kids can enjoy while also giving parents something to laugh at compared to most animated movies, then Pokemon Detective Pikachu will give you what you’re looking for. Reynolds nails his portion of the movie, but everything else is pretty average and does its job. The CGI ended up looking a lot nicer than what I anticipated, and considering that video game adaptations have traditionally been trainwrecks, the fact that we got anything serviceable out of Pokemon Detective Pikachu should be good enough for most viewers.
Overall Score: 6/10