Movie Review – ‘Pokémon: Detective Pikachu’

Adorable Pokémon and Ryan Reynolds can't save a generic story from itself.

Review by J.T. Johnson


“Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” is the first live-action adaptation of the long-running video game series from Nintendo. It is an average family film that could have taken the ideas further if it had been a more straightforward adaptation of its source material. Instead, it adds a rather generic detective story that doesn’t always hit home despite decent performances from stars Justice Smith and Ryan Reynolds.

Tim Goodman (Smith) is a boring insurance salesman who decided to stay with his grandmother after his mother’s death. His father decided to stay in Ryme City, a place where humans and Pokémon live and work together. This means that no Pokémon is the servant of a Pokémon Trainer and there are no Pokémon battles allowed as well.

Unfortunately, Tim gets news that his father was investigating something big and was killed. His Pokémon partner, Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), survived the car crash but has no memory of what happened to him or Tim’s father. Tim and Pikachu decide to join forces in order to solve the investigation themselves and discover whether or not Tim’s father is really dead.

The movie features some really good special effects. The Pokémon are successfully brought to life and feel like they are living with their live-action human counterparts. The performances are also good as well.

Smith turns in a confident performance as a kid who is searching for his father. He’s also searching for his purpose as well. While he shouldn’t be in insurance, everyone else from his best friend to his father’s friend on the force knows that he should be something else. One of the questions of the film is whether or not Smith himself will realize this before the end.

Reynolds is once again the true highlight of the film that he’s starring in. Even though he’s just a voice in this movie, he provides plenty of humorous moments for the adorable Pikachu that he inhabits. Despite the film’s flaws, Reynolds is almost worth it alone to watch the film.

Sadly, though, the film is flawed. The story is rather predictable and generic considering that this is set in the rather unique world of the Pokémon. There are several twists in the film and anyone with even half a brain should be able to figure out what’s going on.

Granted, this film is made to also appeal to kids and I do understand that they can’t make the film too complicated for them to enjoy the movie. Sadly, though, the kids in my audience seemed mostly bored by what was going on.

I think a big reason for this is due to the fact that the Pokémon don’t do much. There is only one real battle and this is when the kids in the audience were very vocal with their approval. The rest of the time, I imagine that they were wondering why the Pokémon were just standing around.

The movie would have been made better had it been about a Pokémon Trainer that actually takes part in Pokémon tournaments. You could then develop an intriguing mystery that would take the trainer to a region where he meets a unique Pikachu that can be understood. Then, as the Trainer goes up the ranks in a tournament held in the region, he could also be trying to solve the mystery set out before him.

Instead, we’re stuck with a film that is almost entertaining due to the effects and Reynolds. By the end of the film, though, I had to admit that while this is one of the better live-action adaptations of a video game, that’s not really saying much. So, once again, I must sit here and conclude that this is yet another video game adaptation that you can ultimately skip despite being a more valiant effort than others that came before it.

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