Pokémon Detective Pikachu - 2019
Director(s): Rob Letterman
Writer(s): Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman and Derek Connolly (screenplay)
Cinematography by: John Mathieson
Editor(s): Mark Sanger and James Thomas
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe and Chris Geere
I am a child of the 90s, so it may come to no surprise that I grew up loving Pokémon and imagining a world in where they co-existed with humans. When the trailer to this film dropped, my inner child had his little mind blown. I knew that as an adult the film would have many issues, the trailer itself gives away pretty much the entire plot and a predictable one at that - but as I walked in the theater with decades of goodwill and memories in my back pocket, I could not help to smile as the world I had always imagine came to life before my eyes. Let's talk about it.
The story follows Tim Goodman (Smith) a young man living outside Ryme City, a metropolis that welcomes the union of Pokémon and man, banning battles and promoting true partnerships. Tim's father recently passed away, and he must go into the city to collect his belongings. When he arrives at his late father's apartment, he comes across a Pikachu (Reynolds) that can communicate with him, and so happens to be his father's Pokémon. Pikachu tells Tim that his father is alive, and they must work together to solve the mystery of where and why his father has gone missing.
This film is for fans of the franchise and kids - while I can see it winning over some adults that have no connection to the IP, it heavily depends (smartly so) on your knowledge and love of the Pokémon and their personalities. I found myself looking at each corner of the screen searching for random Pokémon just hanging out, directing traffic or sleeping in the middle of the road. The mystery is highly predictable, the resolution is telegraphed a mile away (kid's film, sir) - but the comedy and the connection between Smith and Reynolds carry you to the end and delivers on the fun. There are a few nods to the TV series and the video games that elevates your experience, and lets you know that the writers care about this IP.
The CGI while not groundbreaking, works for the tone of the story. I liked how they updated the look and feel of the Pokémon, while still maintaining the cartoony and otherworldly design of the games and TV series. Smith does a great job interacting with Pikachu, making him feel tangible and the fact that they had terrific chemistry also helps the audience's suspension of disbelief. It did take me a second to separate Reynolds from Pikachu, but once I bought into his persona, I fell in love with the mini yellow Reynold as he is the driving force of the comedy and the heart of the film.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu is an entertaining family film that delivers enough jokes to entertain the parents and delight the kids (and fans of the IP). Reynolds is delightful as always, and the team behind the graphics did a fantastic job bringing to life this world. While being far from perfect and leaving a lot on the table when it comes to the potential it had, I know the target demographic will not be disappointed.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a Glass Half Full.
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