Detective Pikachu movie review: Ryan Reynolds' humour mostly lands in an otherwise tonally inconsistent film
Detective Pikachu is an enjoyable bit of escapist fare thanks to Ryan Reynold’s predictably manic voice performance and the beautiful CGI world building.
As someone who has had no experience with the world of Pokemon or with the mobile game Pokemon GO from a couple of years ago, I never expected a big budget film adaptation to hit screens a decade after it stopped being relevant. As purely a dash of surprise, Detective Pikachu works as a fun pass time only because it is such a weird film for its mainstream sensibilities, but does not completely break the mould of blockbuster movie narrative. It is not bizarre enough to be a classic.
We are introduced to Tim (Justice Smith), who has dealt with Pokemon creatures as a trainer — the young man receives news of a family tragedy and travels to Ryme City, only to stumble upon Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), who is a Pokemon detective and seems to be solving a missing person’s case. Naturally, the two team up to go on an adventure and piece together clues to uncover a conspiracy.
As you can guess the story beats follow a rather typical formula, but the film overall is an enjoyable bit of escapist fare thanks to Reynold’s predictably manic voice performance and the beautiful CGI world building. Director Rob Letterman (Shark Tale, Goosebumps) makes it a point to inject ‘vastness’ into every scene, making the world we see in the film giant in scale but also geographically identifiable, thanks to a certain balance between the actors and the VFX accompanying them. The jokes mostly land their punches and there are in fact a couple of standout sequences that will make you guffaw endlessly. Even the action bits are surprisingly well done, with the third act containing some violence that will probably shock you, given this is supposed to be a family entertainer.
The tonal mismatch, however, is something the film suffers from – because the story (written by four credited folks) packs in way too much information in a short-ish time and does not always blend the comedy and the thriller bits seamlessly. In going overboard with the mystery elements, the film takes itself way too seriously despite the Scooby Doo level theatrics at play. The lead Smith is not nearly fun enough as the film wants him to be. There is, however, the presence of Kathryn Newton, which is so strong one wishes she were the lead instead of the ‘Smith’s partner’ role that she is relegated to. And if you’re a Pokemon fan, you are in luck because the film does not hold back in rendering fan service, so those in the know will be able to find a treasure trove of Easter eggs within the film.
So if you are in the mood for some harmless entertainment, you cannot really go wrong with Detective Pikachu. But whether this is a good enough film to begin a new franchise is moot. It does contain the foundation elements and the will power of an origin story, but not enough gas in the machine to make a big pop culture impact The Lego Movie did.
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