Pokémon finally gets its inevitable big screen live-action adaptation in the form of Detective Pikachu. The colossal phenomenon that is Pokémon holds the hearts of millions, including this writer right here. Whether it was Pokémon cards or the animated shows, people all around the world have felt the impact, through childhood or parenthood. With the success and phenomenon that was Pokémon GO, it seemed ripe and ready to get the live-action treatment.
Detective Pikachu’s results are nothing groundbreaking, following a structured archetypal template that could potentially way down Pokémon’s inherent charm and fascination, but it’s the incredibly-inspired casting of Ryan Reynolds that transforms and up-levels the film. Reynolds brings his ever-sharp comedy to the some-what dull goings on of the human characters.
Tim (Justice Smith), is a lonely teenager who investigates the death of his father, after strange circumstances lead him down a path of mystery. Tim meets Pikachu, and just so happens to be the only person who can understand Pikachu. Tim’s father was involved in a devastating crash, involving a legendary Pokémon. Pikachu has amnesia, he remembers nothing and all he knows is he’s linked. Teen reporter (Kathryn Newton) claims to be of assistance to the mysterious case, and adventure ensues.
Pikachu is the clear standout. Ryan Reynolds’ comedic timing is as razor-sharp as ever, never missing a beat. Pikachu brings a real heart to the film, the cuteness oozes off of his full CGI-design that remains impeccable. The film is a mystery-thriller that deals with archetypal ‘daddy issues’ and has very little nuance. As expected the Pokémon are easily the best part of the film, the use of a Mr Mime, perhaps might be the only time Smith shines. The world created has a neon Blade Runner-type feel, that allows focus on both humans and Pokémon, but the humans are mainly one-dimensional and cartoon-like.
The main problems with Detective Pikachu are, the supporting cast and the incredibly bland story. Justice Smith does no justice to the promise of an Ash Ketchum-type partner to (the brilliant) Pikachu, he is as stale as ever, unable to hold a scene without the aid of Reynolds. Kathryn Newton is the perky young-detective figure in the puzzle, she is blandly cartoonish and lacks all substance in performance. Adding to the disappointing performances is Bill Nighy, a normally fantastic performer, belittled by script to a by-the-books villain whose twist is entirely predictable.
The story is as simple as it gets, with clear narrative tropes followed, it never attempts to achieve anything substantial. As brilliant as Reynolds is, the script presented is pretty much nothing. Did Ryan improvise his scenes? Did he write and change his lines? Those are relevant questions, as the bulk of the lines uttered by everyone bar Pikachu could’ve been written by a child.
Even in all of this criticism, it must be stated I had a great time. Stemming from Reynold’s Pikachu and the exploration of the Pokémon, on that front, the film is a success. Detective Pikachu is undoubtably a great time and it’ll please fans, although Justice does no justice.
3/5 Stars ★★★