Dir: Rob Letterman
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Chris Geere, Bill Nighy, and Ken Watanabe
Remember the 1988 film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” which paired a down-on-his-luck gumshoe and an anxious animated rabbit named Roger? At the time of the release, this was a cutting-edge combination of movie magic, placing real actors with animated characters and bringing the animation studio giants together where Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse could share the same frame, where Donald Duck and Daffy Duck could perform skydive hijinks. But one element that is often overlooked is that the film pieces together a nice homage to the detective tales and film noir styles of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Adding a mature element to the world of cartoons.
“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” takes much of its influence from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, bringing the iconic Japanese “Pocket Monsters” together for their own brand recognition praise with a film that is mostly fan service, framed within a flimsy neo-noir detective story.
Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) lives in a world where Pokémon and humans live peacefully with one another, some becoming connected enough to create an inseparable bond. When Tim’s father Harry goes mysteriously missing, Tim returns to Ryme City to investigate his father’s disappearance. Helping Tim with his search is Harry’s Pokémon, Detective Pikachu, who has suffered amnesia after an accident. The two encounter more sinister plans involving the Pokémon, leading them to a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse.
The cute star of the film is Detective Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds); for those unfamiliar with this property, Pikachu is a small yellow critter who conjures electricity as a defense mechanism. Ryan Reynolds is a good choice to voice this character, his charm and quick wit provide the tiny animated character with cuteness that distracts from some of the issues with the story. Justice Smith, who had a nice turn in the Netflix series “The Get Down”, tries to keep up with the disorganized plot but his character seems lost amidst everything happening. It’s unfortunate because at the core of this story is a relationship, the bond between a boy and his pet. As the film develops, when it’s not random action scenes or detective story clichés, Pikachu and Tim have nice chemistry and offer some minor moments where you can see Tim regain his love for his childhood that ended too early.
Amongst the many forms the franchise brand has taken in multimedia avenues, the film is based on the video game and the pacing of the story resembles the structure of those video games. One clue leads to a mission which leads to another adventure, the story moments don’t tie together so well when this logic is translated to the cinema but there are enough fan moments to distract from this absence of plot structure.
“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” never completely commits to the mystery story it’s trying to tell, it seems more concerned with offering fun moments and fan appreciation. You don’t have to be a fan of the Pokémon to find the easy-going fun trying to be had here, but if you do like those “Pocket Monsters” it may be easier to overlook the glaring issues with this detective yarn.
2.00 out of 5.00