The extent of my Pokémon knowledge is very limited. I know that people have "gotta catch 'em all". I know the best way to get Pikachu on a bus . . . poke 'im on. And I know that the mobile game was massively successful, and seemed to be the latest thing that everyone was obsessed with when it was released, for all of a month. I was also vaguely aware of the Detective Pikachu videogame. That's it. So I am not sure if it is a good or bad thing that I enjoyed this movie so much.
Justice Smith plays Tim Goodman, a young man who travels to tidy up some affairs after the death of his father, Harry. He ends up finding a Pikachu that seemed to belong to his father. He can even understand what it is saying, while others only hear sounds like "pika pika". The pair team up to find out what happened to Harry, which leads them to big battles, interrogating a creature that communicates via the medium of mime, and crossing paths with Mewtwo.
I've looked into this (these reviews aren't just slapped together without any care or effort, you know . . . not all the time anyway) and it seems that Pokémon Detective Pikachu is an entertaining movie that manages to satisfy both fans and newcomers alike. There are numerous nods and references scattered throughout every scenes, and the main storyline makes good use of some familiar characters. If you're going to make a movie from this particular brand, this isn't a bad way to go about it.
Smith is a good young lead, and he quickly builds a nice chemistry with his Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds). The two are a classic mis-matched duo, and Pikachu is nicely realised with some perfect CGI. Having said that, I cannot think of any mis-steps here, on a visual level. Every character is rendered in a way that aligns with their traits (some are a bit more cartoonish, some more realistic) and the production design is often gorgeous. As for the other humans, Bill Nighy and Ken Watanabe lend their not-inconsiderable talents to the proceedings, and it's amusing to watch them have some fun, Kathryn Newton is a plucky investigative journalist, Lucy Stevens, and has great onscreen presence, and you have some fun support from Chris Geere, Suki Waterhouse, Rita Ora, and Karan Soni (the latter two having much less screentime than the others).
Director Rob Letterman also helped to write the screenplay with Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, and Derek Connolly, from a story also co-created with Nicole Perlman, and this may be his best work yet. His animated movies always felt like second-tier efforts (especially Shark Tale), but his live-action work has been on a steady upward trajectory, from Gulliver's Travels to Goosebumps and now this.
What could have been a painful cash-in is instead an impressive and amusing detective flick that benefits from the care taken with it, from the writing to the many details tucked away in every scene. Although not a traditional Pokémon story, it manages to treat all of the characters, and the whole universe, with respect. Fans of the series should have a lot of fun with this, and movie fans who don't know much about the games can also have a lot of fun. I THINK it's a very good Pokémon movie, but I KNOW it's a very good movie.
You can watch the full movie, for free, here.
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