POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU
*** ½ out of five stars
The world-famous video game series comes to the big screen like you’ve never seen before.
Tim Goodman (played by Justice Smith) is a young man who once aspired to become a Pokémon trainer but eventually became an insurance salesman following the death of his mother and the absence of his father. Tim learns that his father, Harry, an accomplished police detective in Ryme City, has seemingly died in the line of duty. Tim heads to the city to investigate.
Tim soon runs into an amnesiac Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), whose voice he can somehow understand. Pikachu claims to be Harry’s partner and somehow intuitively knows that Harry is still alive. Tim and Pikachu embark on a journey to uncover what happened to Harry and are aided by Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), a junior reporter with lofty aspirations, and her Psyduck.
Detective Pikachu is the first live-action Pokémon movie and is based on the Pokémon spinoff game of the same name. The film also marks the first live-action film based on a Nintendo property since the much-reviled 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie. As the reputation of video game-based movies has not improved much since the Mario debacle over 25 years ago, Detective Pikachu has had quite a bit to prove. Fortunately, the film proves to be a worthwhile experience.
A large part of the film’s appeal is due to Reynolds’ vocal performance as Pikachu. The character is like a PG-rated version of Deadpool and engages in some very amusing banter with Smith’s Tim. The film’s mystery unfolds in an intriguing enough way. Additionally, the CGI Pokémon effects, although somewhat cartoony looking alongside the human characters, hit the right balance of being true to the established game designs while adding realistic details.
Detective Pikachu is not quite universal enough to have wide appeal outside the Pokémon fanbase, but it respects its source material in a way few other live action films based on video games have. If you’re already a Pokéfan, or want a fun movie mystery, then step on up.