a critiQal film review Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)

Plot: Ace detective Harry Goodman goes missing, prompting his 21-year-old son, Tim (Smith), to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry's former Pokémon partner, wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth Detective Pikachu (Reynolds). Finding that they are uniquely equipped to work together, as Tim is the only human who can talk with Pikachu, they join forces to unravel the tangled mystery.

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  • ...even with Ryan Reynolds voicing the too-cute Pikachu an obvious highlight, this film is much better (and a lot more fun) than it has any right to be.

Even if you have never been a fan of the previous cartoon, cards or any of the previous cartoon flicks (or never bothered with any of it), there was something eye-catching (or should I say ear-catching) in the trailer for Pokémon Detective Pikachu – Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Pikachu.  With that, I was hooked.  Could this live-action / CGI combo could deliver, or would it be nothing but a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) wannabe?

As the voice of Pikachu, Ryan Reynolds is easily the best thing about Pokémon Detective Pikachu.  Combining the smarmy too-cuteness of his character with a PG-rated Deadpool (2016) impersonation, he seems to be enjoying himself tremendously as he spouts off hilarious sound bites.  The rest of the cast, while decent, can’t really compete, and, like his so-called partner Justice Smith, tend to just follow along with his craziness.  By the time he starts crying his way through a version of the cartoon’s theme song, viewers will have found his Pikachu has made it’s way into their hearts, almost in spite of themselves.

Unfortunately, the plot behind Pokémon Detective Pikachu isn’t quite up to the same level.  It’s pretty simplistic, and simply used as a vehicle to pair Pikachu with his human partner Tim.  More of a buddy comedy than expected, the film manages to make its way through a fantastical world while delivering much better than it should.   And that’s a lot to say for a film that’s both a video game adaptation and centered around a rather tired card game.

There is definitely a lot of world-building going on in Pokémon Detective Pikachu, and viewers should probably expect this is the start of a new series of films.  Thankfully, the CGI is right on point, and viewers shouldn’t have a problem taking in this fantastical new reality where Pokemon and humans work side-by-side.  In fact, some of the visual imagery of this world is pretty impressive, and viewers are a bit sad when they are sucked back into the story for a kind of a silly ending sequence.

Okay, so Pokémon Detective Pikachu isn’t perfect.  But, considering we weren’t fans of this “world” before we went in, the fact we had a good time says a lot.  Sure, Ryan Reynolds deserves most of the credit for that, but the fact that the creators had no problem poking a bit of fun at their property should be a credit to them.  You definitely don’t have to be a fun of Pokemon to enjoy this film, just a fan of Reynolds type of humor.  Easily one of the best video-game adaptations around (and the only Pokemon movie adults will want to watch with their kids), this adventure may not quite live up to it’s predecessor, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), but that film doesn’t put it to shame either.

Sure, Pokémon Detective Pikachu could have been better.  But, given the tired card game’s past-its-peak fame, it’s a heck of a lot better (and way more entertaining) than it has any right to be.


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