Pokemon: Detective Pikachu
Starring Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, Ken Wantanabe, Ryan Reynolds, Chris Geere
The trailer for this film falsely states that this time around, “Pokemon” isn’t just for young kids. Despite casting Ryan Reynolds, whose most famous role to date is as a foul-mouthed superhero, “Detective Pikachu” is solely for children, 10 and under. From the director of “Goosebumps,” this is more of a pacifying adventure for young minds than balanced entertainment for the whole family. A small handful of jokes, in the beginning, might appease older teens while traveling over younger heads, but all that fades into oversaturated visual effects and a virtual headache for adults. “Cute” only works for so long when the plot is predictable in the way many children’s movies are, non-stop destruction and chaos then everything is neatly resolved by the end.
20-year-old Tim Goodman (Smith) grew up in a small town with his grandmother. His mother died of an illness and his dad is a detective in Ryne City, the first integrated community of humans and Pokemon, thanks to scientist Howard Clifford (Nighy). After Goodman receives word that his dad was killed in a car crash, he heads to Ryne to settle his father’s affairs. When he enters his father’s apartment he’s startled by a Pikachu Pokemon (Reynolds’ voice), who he strangely can understand. Humans only hear sounds from the adorable creature, but Goodman can somehow converse with his father’s Pokemon. Suffering from amnesia, Pikachu insists they join forces to figure out what happens to Harry Goodman. They enlist the help of a young ambitious reporter Lucy Stevens (Newton) and uncover a diabolical plot to alter the two species.
“Cute” only works for so long when the plot is predictable in the way most children’s movies are, non-stop destruction and chaos then everything is perfectly fine by the end.
“Roger Rabbit,” “Stuart Little,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles;” having live actors interacting alongside animated characters isn’t a new concept. Pokemon is a worldwide phenomenon many times over with television shows, spin-off animated movies, and the immensely popular Pokemon Go app that led to the greenlight of this live-action movie. “Detective Pikachu” is similar to what “Goosebumps“ and “Gulliver’s Travels” director Rob Letterman accomplished (or failed to, depending on how you look at it) with his previous films. There is a selective target audience for these films, and it’s obviously not intellectual adults who are seeking stimulating or thought-provoking cinema. Jokes about birth canals and veiled sexual innuendo won’t be enough to satisfy those buying a ticket without little ones in tow.
The 11 credited writers pick and borrow from all major franchises, most notability the Pokemon parade sequence is lifted from Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman.” Like with most children’s stories, the villains here are one-note, and the story never stops to explore their motivations. They are evil because the script says so. The heroes always narrowly escape each obstacle on their high-risk adventure, then simply move onto the next one. If the game the Pokemon cards or the earlier films had some sort of life lesson to them, “Detective Pikachu” has discarded any notion of that in exchange for thrills and excitement. Smith (“Paper Towns“) is quite charismatic as the lead. Newton (“Ben is Back“) has starred in so many films with more adult subject matter that it’s a bit hard to take her seriously in this “April O’Neil” type role.
A pacifier for children, a virtual headache for adults.