Movies based on video games are hit and miss but Detective Pikachu, out now, is a fun little offering for the whole family.
Young nice guy Tim (Justice Smith) returns to Ryme City to learn more about the death of his father, a detective, which turns out to be a mystery with a massive, corporate conspiracy behind it — connected to a vaporous drug called R — and that pulls him back into the world of mastering Pokemon.
Helping him navigate that world are his dad’s partner, a sarcastic and amnesiac Pikachu addicted to coffee (Ryan Reynolds), and a wannabe investigative journalist named Lucy (Kathryn Newton) and her anxious Psyduck.
Based on the Nintendo DS game, the narrative is standard detective fiction following the clues. There is also loads of fan service. Every location will give you a chance to make a game out of naming this or that Pokemon.
Much like Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds reigns supreme overall. This is his movie, stealing it with his charm and biting wit.
The same can’t be said for Justice Smith. Playing the main character and thus the emotional anchor, he isn’t up to the task. Smith is rather forgettable and exercises all the presence of Jorge Lendeborg in Bumblebee who, essentially, played the same awkward, lovesick character.
Lucy fills the role of love interest/sidekick. Kathryn Newton (known for Paranormal Activity 4, Blockers, and Halt and Catch Fire) plays her to the hilt, making it a shame she is demoted to second fiddle. She is far more fun and plucky than Tim who is too passive for such a popping world.
The environment of Pokemon is really developed. It’s cartoon in so many respects but feels familiar and realistic thanks to the human characters and authentic London and Japanese streets. Thankfully, everything is not dour or Blade Runner-like the way Alita was.
Fans should be pleased with the tone and the way characters are rendered. Pikachu looks like he could be real and functions in a believable way. Ryan Reynolds’s voice brings the little guy to life.
Other Pokemon function in a similar manner but each one is unique and more outlandish than the last. The most amusing and memorable has to be the Mr. Mime, who has a funny interrogation scene with Tim and Pikachu.
For such an unlikely idea to be greenlit, and rife as it is with science fiction cliches, the script is surprisingly neat and ordered in its structure. One scene leads to the next with a new clue until the case is cracked and it moves along. There’s also ample Pokemon hijinx, fighting, and displays of power without overdoing it.
The villain and the swerve to throw you off his scent, however, are rather obvious, as is his master plan when you get down to it. That he’s played by a Brit doesn’t help either.
As video-game movies go, on a scale of 1 to 10 — 1 being Uwe Boll’s Alone in the Dark and 10 being Rampage — I give Detective Pikachu an 8, which is better than Super Mario Bros. and slightly higher than Mortal Kombat. You can go with Cinema Score on this one.
- Ryan Reynolds
- Animation effects
- Kathryn Newton (Lucy deserves a spinoff with her Psyduck.)
- Justice Smith
- Run of the mill plot
- Obvious villain