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'Pokémon Detective Pikachu' almost gets it right

Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Detective Pikachu and Justice Smith as Tim Goodman. Picture: Warner Bros

Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Detective Pikachu and Justice Smith as Tim Goodman. Picture: Warner Bros

Published May 17, 2019


"Pokémon Detective Pikachu" transports viewers to the magical world of Pokémon but neglects the pocket monsters for their human trainers. 

Rating: 3/5

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This adventure finds Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a 21-year-old investment agent, returning to Rhyme City to investigate the disappearance of his father detective Harry Goodman. When Tim goes through his father’s apartment he runs into Harry’s Pokémon partner a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) and discovers that he can understand him. 

"Pokémon Detective Pikachu" could’ve gone in one of two directions. It could’ve joined the long list of horrendous anime live-action adaptations – (cough) Dragonball Evolution (cough) – or be the one that finally breaks through to be a good movie. Detective Pikachu isn’t cinema gold, but it’s enjoyable. 

The way director Rob Letterman and screenwriters Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit depict the characters shows they have a proper understanding of the Pokémon.

 The visual artists found a nice middle ground in the Pokémon design with it being show accurate while still looking realistic - I’m looking at you Sonic The Hedgehog with your human teeth. 

Reynolds does a great job as the voice of Pikachu and his humour, while a tad blue, is the main driving force that makes "Detective Pikachu" an enjoyable experience. 

Where the movie falls flat is the human characters and the overall plot. Letterman makes the mistake Michael Bay did with the Transformers franchise and focuses on the human characters instead of the animated ones. 

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The Pokémon play second fiddle in their movie and the human characters are serviceable at best and unbearable at worst. The reporter Tim meets, Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), who becomes his love interest for no good reason. The main villain’s motivations for his actions in the third act are paper thin and, while the twist at the end is surprising, it feels unnecessary. 

The world Letterman created looks interesting but we don’t spend enough time exploring it. There is a throwaway line about Mewtwo (Kotaro Watanabe) which places Detective Pikachu in the same universe at the original anime and "Pokémon: The First Movie". 

To see what Pokémon Centres look like in this world. Are Nurse Joy and Officer Jenny still around? Is Team Rocket still causing havoc? Did Ash become a Pokémon master since Detective Pikachu is set 20 years after "Pokémon: The First Movie"? 

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Overall the film is still a joy to watch and Reynolds as the voice of the Pokémon mascot is a fun experience. Even though the human characters are a snooze, the vibrancy and exuberance of all the Pokémon make up for it in spades.

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