For over 20 years, Pokemon has been one of the most successful video game/card game/cartoon brands of all time and an iconic piece of pop culture. So it makes sense that, after many tries and failures of movie studios trying to make a legitimately good video game movie, the Pocket Monsters end up being the ones who take the cake.
“Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” is not only a delightful Pokemon movie, but also a light-hearted slice of escapism that should make any fan of the franchise, young or old, quite happy walking out of the theater.
Starring Justice Smith as Tim Goodman and Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Pikachu, director Rob Letterman’s film goes all-in on the zany weirdness of the world of Pokemon. It throws a vibrant, busy and sometimes neon aesthetic that captures the intricate and wild world many have grown up with. At times, it feels like this perfect blend of live action and cartoon blurs a line that only “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and “Mary Poppins” ever clearly defined.
When Tim Goodman discovers his detective father has perished in a mysterious car accident, he travels to Rhyme City, where humans and Pokemon live in harmony and co-exist in their day-to-day lives. His search into his father’s apartment leads him to discover what seems to be his father’s former partner: a Pikachu that only he can understand, and that believes Tim’s father is still alive. From here on the plot is pretty straightforward and entirely entertaining, though it does go a little over the top in the third act. Even then, the last 30 minutes and all of its bonkers antics and spectacle seems pretty in line with the rest of the movie, just cranked up from an 8 to a 10.
On top of this, the Pokemon are so wonderfully rendered in the hybrid cartoon/real life aesthetic that they are a totally believable part of the world presented to the audience. This is particularly successful given how much of a toss-up it seems like with CGI creatures/characters onscreen these days. Luckily, the Pokemon here fare far better than the dinosaurs in the “Jurassic” movies, the robots in most of the “Transformers” films, or Dumbo in his own terrible recent remake; it’s a lot of fun to watch the creatures go about their lives. Fans will really enjoy spotting their favorites here and there, and one could watch the movie three times over and probably not spot every different species of Pocket Monster hidden throughout.
Of course, this brings us to the star of the movie and the voice behind him: Detective Pikachu. Between the adorable and wonderfully detailed animation and Reynolds’ hilarious voice work, it will be near impossible not to love this rendition of Pikachu. Equal parts heart and wisecracks, Reynolds does a far more family-friendly take of his Deadpool shtick, but not to the detriment of the title character that’s the heart and soul of the movie. Pikachu is absolutely his own individual here, this is just more of a testament to Reynolds’ trademark comedic timing and snarky comments. He does throw out a few adult-oriented jokes that will definitely get a laugh out of the older members of the audience, but they are so well-written (or perhaps so well-improvised by Reynolds) that they will go right over kids’ heads.
Speaking of which, this is absolutely an all-ages film. The only drawback is that if you don’t have any familiarity with Pokemon at all, you will be lost entirely. However, kids who love Pokemon – and the many millennials who grew up with the original cartoons, trading cards and Gameboy games – are going to absolutely adore “Detective Pikachu” as a nostalgic blast from the past and a brand-new adventure all at the same time.
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“Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” is currently playing at the Riverside Cinemas, 1017 S. Boone St. in Aberdeen.
George Haerle holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing for media and lives in Cosmopolis.