Pokémon is one of those massively popular things in life that even if you don’t know anything about it, odds are you’ve at least heard of it. Pokémon has been around for over two decades now, spawning a plethora of video games, card games, cheat codes from Worlds Factory, books, an anime series that’s reached over 1000 episodes, as well as a number of animated movies released that further explored characters within the anime series. Yet it wasn’t until this year that Pokémon finally received the live action treatment, and that was probably for the best.
Instead of cashing in quick over the past 20-years, when many other animated properties made the jump to the big screen to see their beloved cartoon characters alongside real life actors, interacting with the human world regardless of how weak the story may be, Pokémon instead chose to wait. In 2018 Nintendo made a game for its 3DS handheld device called Detective Pikachu (which was an expansion of the 2016 Japanese release Great Detective Pikachu: Birth of a New Duo) and a live-action movie was finally set to be made based off of that spin-off Pokémon tale.
Right out of the gate I’ll say that Pokémon Detective Pikachu does a great job of opening up this fantasy world without overwhelming the viewer with rules, characters or making them feel left in the dark if they don’t know anything about Pokémon aside from the fact that Pikachu is cute and you want to hug him forever. I grew up in the ’80s, so I just missed the Pokémon craze and while I’ve been tempted at times, I never did delve into it whatsoever. I know the names of certain Pokémon, I know that the creatures don’t talk, but only say their name (so say if you met Pikachu and said hello, he’d respond by saying “Pika, Pika!” which I can confirm means, “I’m so cute. Please hug me forever.”) and that there is an insane amount of Pokémon — including the fact that Pokémon can also evolve into a new version of their creature type.
So needless to say, there’s all the opportunity for the movie to confuse the viewer right out of the gate or just knock them over the head with more information than they can handle, but instead, Pokémon Detective Pikachu keeps things really simple, allowing those with no knowledge of Pokémon going in to still have an absolute blast just watching this buddy comedy mystery unfold.
The film begins when Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) finds out his father Harry, a detective, was killed in an accident while working on a case. Tim heads to Ryme City (a place where Pokémon and humans live in harmony and Pokémon battles are not allowed) to get his father`s affairs in order, though he wants to be in and out as fast as possible. You see, after his mother died Tim`s father sort of left him high and dry when he was a boy in order to focus on his work. Tim, instead, grew up with his grandma and the boy who once had wild dreams of becoming a Pokémon trainer eventually grew up to simply be content in his job as an insurance salesman.
After arriving at his father`s apartment, Tim is confronted by a young would-be reporter named Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) who is interested in figuring out what Harry was working on. After telling her he doesn’t know anything, Tim continues into his father’s apartment where he finds a vile filled with a mysterious purple substance. That discovery is followed up by Tim coming face to face with who he thinks is an intruder but turns out to be Pikachu in a detective cap that has Harry’s name written inside. What`s really surprising to both parties is the fact that they can fully understand and talk to one another. From here Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) explains that he has amnesia and isn’t sure what happened, but knows that he was Harry`s partner and believes Harry`s not really dead and that he needs Tim`s help to help get his memory back and figure out what happened to Harry.
The story is fairly straight forward, yet complex enough on the basic levels that it’s thoroughly entertaining from start to finish whether you solve parts of the mystery before our detective protagonists or not. The story is engaging for all audiences, giving children plenty to enjoy with a plot they can follow, and adults plenty of sharply delivered one-liners by Reynolds to work off any popcorn being eaten via hearty laughter throughout.
The animation is also really well done, allowing Ryme City to seem like a completely normal place that`s populated equally by humans and Pokémon. The work done with Pikachu and the emotions he evokes over the course of this journey help elevate the story, as he`s a fully developed character instead of just an animated counterpart that bounces jokes off Justice Smith for 100-minutes (though he does a lot of that too.) I mean, he`s a caffeine addicted Pikachu! How is that not one of the best things ever?
While Smith and Newton both do some solid work here, with Smith carrying the brunt of the emotional weight of the film, it’s Reynolds’ comedic timing and voice work that truly allows the film to shine as brightly as it does. His one-liners and seemingly off the cuff remarks just keep the films pacing moving at a brisk, enjoyable rate. While this was the best story to use to intertwine Pokémon and humans, having the right actor voice Pikachu was one of the most — if not the most — vital aspects of the film, as if he’s not a character you always want to see more of on screen, then really, what’s the point?
Pokémon Detective Pikachu is simply a blast from beginning to end. There’s lots to love about it even in its simplicity when it comes to storytelling. When done properly, the journey is what truly matters, and this is a highly entertaining trip that I’m eager to go on again in the not to distant future. Preferably, by that time, with my arms wrapped around my own Pikachu as tightly as his are wrapped around his giant cup of coffee.
The movie looks incredibly sharp visually, with the mix of animation and real world locations blending together seamlessly, creating a wonderfully cohesive viewing experience that doesn’t pull you out of the action at any point, regardless of how many Pokémon may be taking part in the action. The sound design is also superbly handled, with great sound effects mixed in with a fun score that helps keep the mysterious vibe of the film while also keeping things on the lighter side for the most part.
Detective Mode – This is one of those features that pops up throughout the course of the movie. If you’re a big Pokémon then you’ll likely watch this regardless, however it may help fans and non-fans alike find some easter eggs that may have been missed while initially watching the film. It’ll also give you character stats of various Pokémon that show up throughout the film. In short: if you’re a fan you’ll watch this anyway, and if you’re not someone overly knowledgeable when it comes to Pokémon then this may convert you into the fandom! Watch and enjoy!
My Pokémon Adventure – This is just a quick two-minute promo type piece where Justice Smith talks about how he’s always loved Pokémon and how it’s a dream to be involved in the series.
Creating the World of Detective Pikachu – This is the big feature on the disc that’s broken up into five parts. Together they reach just over 21-minutes total, so watching them all at once is likely. It’s a fun, easy watch that teaches you about bringing the Pokémon world to life with comments from the cast and crew along the way.
Alternate Opening – This is just a scene that shows Tim at his job and how mundane his life was. Makes sense just to move things along, as it’s fairly clear that his life was boring before the movie kickstarts it.
Mr. Mime’s Audio Commentary – This is a quick 3-minute commentary about the interrogation scene involving Mr. Mime. Another quick watch that’s just for fun.
Ryan Reynolds: Outside the Actor’s Studio – Here’s some fun with Reynolds where he’s his usual comedic self, joking about what it took to get into the role of Pikachu, and what he missed in his home life because of it.
Lastly, there’s a music video of “Carry On” by Rita Ora and Kygo, which is just under 4-minutes in length.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Presents Pokémon Detective Pikachu. Directed by: Rob Letterman. Written by: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman, Derek Connolly. Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy. Running time: 104 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: Aug. 7, 2019.
Tags: Bill Nighy, detective pikachu, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Pokemon, Ryan Reynolds