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Review: Pokemon Detective Pikachu

by Tony Ruggio

I was already in high school by the time Pokemon became a worldwide phenomenon, and I was in no mood for cute, cuddly anime animals at the moody age of sixteen. For this non-fan, however, Detective Pikachu is a minor delight filled with joy, heart, and giant Pokemon doing battle. It’s a big, bubbly kids movie that grows on you until the inevitably exhausting bombast of a cartoony third act...

Accusing a Pokemon movie of becoming cartoony might sound like silly, but these things happen in Hollywood third acts. Warner Bros and director Rob Letterman have, for the most part, done a bang-up job selling these oddball creations in a live action environment. Without changing their essential look for any wonky “real-world” aesthetic, Letterman and his team have somehow made Pikachu, Mewtwo, Psyduck, and the rest look as tangible as visually possible. From their finely detailed bodies to seamless interaction with lead actor Justice Smith, the visual effects should garner an Oscar nomination at least. Smith, for his part as Tim, grows on you too. He starts out a little prickly for a family film's protagonist, and yet, by the end his arc and bond with little Pika had me tearing up, much to my chagrin.

Everyone’s here for Pikachu, of course, and without Ryan Reynolds this movie would be all for naught. Though clearly watered-down for a PG audience, Reynolds’ trademark humor is still in full swing. His instant charm and recognizable banter is like a warm embrace. We’ve heard it all before, but it’s nice to hear anyway. As a noir-ish detective and partner to Tim’s enigmatic father, Pikachu can’t remember anything other than the case of the missing Dad. With a reluctant Tim at his side they set out to solve a not-so-mysterious puzzle involving toxic gases, experiments, and of course, corporate malfeasance. Because what’s a modern day blockbuster without a cutthroat corporate villain who’s company ends in “Industries?” Bill Nighy plays one half of a father/son duo running said company, with his pompous kid’s hostile takeover potentially threatening Rhyme City’s utopian community of humans and Pokemon living together in harmony.

Detective Pikachu isn’t a perfect introduction, especially for newbies but good world-building makes up for most of that. And when I hear Reynolds paired with that cute, cuddly face I’m suddenly ashamed of that sixteen year-old who hated Pokemon. Sometimes bringing something to life brings it to life. B


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Reader Comments (5)

Tony, thank you for this refreshing, lovely perspective in writing a review. There's a rancid cynicism that pervades film criticism these days. You avoided that altogether and wrote something appealingly personal. And you actually made me want to see this movie LOL.

May 19, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I love Detective Pikachu!

May 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

I saw this movie in the role of paying chaperone rather than interested moviegoer — I know nothing about Pokémon — and it was still pretty good. I had read about the seamless FX beforehand and had Who Framed Roger Rabbit? on the brain. Little did I know that one of the villain reveals (the mysterious woman in shades) would borrow heavily from that movie.

I was prepared for the mild casting surprise at the end, given Justice Smith as the lead and the picture of his mother, but in retrospect it makes little sense. Wouldn’t Detective Pikachu have seemed somewhat, um, familiar to Tim?

May 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrevity

My review at my to be released blog on this film will be riveting.

May 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Saw it yesterday. Visual effects are top notch. Although it is very derivative, it is entertaining. But the movie does not have lol moments, from which it should have benefited enormously. .

May 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

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