I should state outright before I begin this review: I am not a Pokémon fan. That is not to say that as a child I didn’t watch snippets of the television series and the movie, or know of the video games or the trading cards. I just wasn’t into it. But my partner very much was, which is why I agreed so readily to see this film. And I have to say, I’m glad I did.
Detective Pikachu is set in a world where Pokémon are part of people’s daily lives, thanks to the social merging of humans and Pokémon pioneered by business visionary Howard Clifford. Our protagonist Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a 22-year-old insurance worker disillusioned with the idea of Pokémon, travels to Ryme City (in reality London’s financial district) a place where Pokémon and humans live together, after hearing his estranged police detective father has been killed in a car accident. Hoping to wrap up his father’s affairs, Tim makes his way to his old apartment, where he crosses paths with his father’s old partner…who just happens to be a Pokémon. Even if you are not a fan of Pokémon, you know that they cannot speak to humans, and humans cannot speak to them, so for Tim to be able to communicate with Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) on a linguistic level is huge. What does it all mean?
Pikachu, struggling with amnesia, can’t remember what happened to his partner so he enlists Tim to help him discover what went down.
Justice Smith is a great talent, tugging at our heartstrings in every relatable scene, and Kathryn Newton (Supernatural’s Claire Novak), wannabe-journalist-turned-friend-turned love-interest, has such drive and intelligence that you cannot help but root for her. And, quite inevitably, Ryan Reynold’s Pikachu steals the show. He delivers lines that have a much more comedic punch precisely because they’re in Ryan Reynold’s voice, and his connection with Tim is not only believable but immensely fun to watch. You do get the feeling that Reynolds is just playing a very cute and toned-down Deadpool, and I was completely okay with that (Deadpool’s Dopinder makes an appearance at the start of the movie, look out for him).
While the story is a little generic and predictable (it’s a kid’s film, after all, not an Oscar-winner) the way it unfolds is brilliant. There are a few twists and turns that perhaps the adults in the audience can see coming, but certainly not the kids. Their interpretation of Mew2 is also particularly fun to watch. The world director Rob Letterman built is neon-noir-esq (think Blade Runner meshed with Double Indemnity) and has the same nostalgic feeling his adaption of Goosebumps thrived upon. The Pokémon are adorable, funny, and some are down right scary.
Leaving the cinema, I was left with one thought: which Pokémon would I want? (Hint: any with the word ‘puff’ in their name is a winner)
Director: Rob Letterman
Starring: Justice Smith, Kathryn Newson, and Ryan Reynolds
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