Main cast: Ryan Reynolds (Pikachu), Justice Smith (Tim Goodman), Kathryn Newton (Lucy Stevens), Bill Nighy (Howard Clifford), Ken Watanabe (Detective Hideo Yoshida), Chris Geere (Roger Clifford), Omar Chaparro (Sebastian), and Rita Ora (Dr Ann Laurent)
Director: Rob Letterman
I am not a fan of the Pokémon franchise, although I will admit to owning some cute plushies and keychains of those creatures. I tried the Pokémon Go mobile game for two days before realizing how bored I was, and uninstalled that thing without having any second thoughts. Therefore, I can only wonder what I am doing with my life when I get what is basically an advertisement for Pokémon Go passed off as a movie scene ten minutes into this movie. Still, I am curious about how Pokémon Deadpool will turn out, so I stay put in my cinema seat.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu is, of course, set in a world where Pokémon creatures exist alongside humans. Most humans have a Pokémon partner – eeuw, not like that; we aren’t a furry convention here – and it’s supposed to be some kind of mutually supportive relationship. You can’t communicate in their language, but if you open your heart to them, they will understand you – that kind of thing.
Tim Goodman doesn’t have a Pokémon partner. Well, he used to dream of being a Pokémon trainer when he grew up, but since then, his mother died and he drifted apart from his father Harry. Shortly after, Harry moved to Ryme City where he worked as a detective, while Tim stayed in the care of his grandmother. Resenting his father for his absence, Tim refused to go when Harry sent for him. Since then, father and son have never met or spoken. Now, a twenty-one year old Tim is a vaguely unhappy lad stuck in a desk job while all his friends move away to greener pastures. His world really shakes up, however, when he receives news that Harry had been killed in an accident, together with his Pokémon BFF.
Our hero travels to Ryme City, a place where Pokémons and humans live on equal terms with no Pokémon training or batttles allowed. The city is founded by Howard Clifford, a wealthy businessman who has a terminal disease, and while seeking enlightenment and inner peace, discovers that humans have much to learn from Pokémons on how to better people. Hence, he creates this city and rules as its de facto mayor, while his son Roger owns the media in this city. The whole place sounds like a dream city, but Tim soon realizes that there is more than meets the eye here as he discovers that his father’s Pokémon partner, a Pikachu, is still alive and is seeking answers about Harry’s death. Tim finds that he is the only human who can understand Pikachu and vice versa, and together with the ambitious unpaid intern at the TV station, Lucy Stevens, they begin meddling around and soon find themselves in all kinds of trouble.
Now, Pokémon Detective Pikachu starts out pretty cringe-inducing. I get mood whiplash when I see the cast acting like morons stumbling around in a children’s cartoon, while at the same time Ryan Reynolds is improvising his lines and casting out innuendo-laden one-liners that I hope will fly over the heads of the preteen kids in the audience. What does this movie want to do? Which age group is its intended audience? I get disoriented by how Ryan Reynolds seems to have received a memo stating that this one is more in the vein of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, while the other cast members are acting like this is just a small step-up from a Nickelodeon show. Even then, the Nickelodeon-geared humor is really awkward, as Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton have to mouth some of the dumbest, most vapid lines I’ve come across in a long time.
However, this movie becomes far more watchable once it kicks up the action and focuses less on the main characters being awkward in the name of “comedy”. The action moves at a more tolerable, faster pace and there is far less misfired comedy from the cast members who aren’t named Ryan Reynolds. Seriously, Mr Reynolds at times is the only thing holding this movie together with his quips. The special effects are nice to look at, and the Pokémons are cute.
I also like the twist; I probably would have seen it coming if I weren’t too busy cringing during the early parts of the movie, but I like it. However, the entire story is on the rubbish side. I’m never given a good reason why Tim need to be manipulated into coming to Ryme City, or why he needs to be kept in the dark if he is so important. For the mastermind’s plan to work, this fellow also must be able to correctly predict the many coincidental twists and turns in Tim’s trip. Since this mastermind is not able to look into the future, the only conclusion I can make is that the story makes no sense because it is full of logic holes.
I don’t regret watching Pokémon Detective Pikachu but I hesitate to say that people who aren’t into this franchise should rush to watch it in the cinemas. It’s passable, so long as one doesn’t think too hard about the story and has a higher threshold for juvenile humor, but it’s not, in my opinion, worth the ticket price. Wait for streaming or rental, the movie will go down easier if one paid less for it.