It is no secret that movies based on video game properties have struggled to translate onto the big screen, with most ending up being forgettable, super cheesy or just plain bad, and so we look to the next one to break the curse until that one movie finally comes along. After all those failed attempts we look to Pokémon, one of the biggest video game franchises of all time, after having the first games released back in 1996, and they still releasing games, and this is also the second attempt to make a Nintendo property into a movie and to break the curse. I can safely say that Pokémon Detective Pikachu finally did, not only did it deliver a good video game movie but one with great humor, heart, a decent story, and a beautifully realized world that makes me want to return as soon as possible, it was a blast of a movie from start to finish.
It’s crazy to me that out of all the different Pokémon stories and games that the first live-action adaptation is from Detective Pikachu instead of focusing on a trainer learning to become the best, like no one ever has been before, but funnily enough, it works. It focuses on Tim Goodman, the son of a detective stationed in Ryme City who goes missing and failed Pokémon trainer. After the disappearance of his father, he comes across his father’s Pokémon partner Pikachu, who’s got a bad case of amnesia and is able to only talk to Tim, and together they work together to find out what happened to Tim’s father and what happened to Pikachu. Now the story isn’t anything to go crazy about as the “who done it” isn’t that difficult to figure out before the movie reveals it. It’s pretty predictable at times but at least it is never boring, and there was one twist that I didn’t see coming and works really well for the movie. Keep in mind though, it is a movie for kids though and they won’t see the twists coming.
I did however like the characters of Tim Goodman and, as they search for an identity of their own and learn to believe and trust again. You buy their friendship by the end of the movie and the relationship they build in the movie is strong. It’s them together that brings the heart and emotion to the proceedings, and I’d love to go into it deeper as to why it works so well but that’s spoiler territory. I feel that the reporter Lucy Stevens is very underwritten though and it’s a shame because she’s in the movie quite a bit and plays a big role but she’s really only used to get Tim and Pikachu from place to place. The villain, without going into spoilers, is alright but nothing crazy. If you know your Pokémon lore, you’ll understand the villain more (kinda) and see who it is coming a little early.
Easily the best element of the movie is the world that the filmmakers built for us dive into for an hour and forty minutes. The Pokémon are extremely well designed and are so adorable and well integrated into this world where you believe that people are living with Pokémon. You see Squirttles helping the fire department put out fires and Charmanders using their tails to cook food and it helps make this world feel believable and magical and this magic is all thanks to director Rob Letterman and the VFX team who nailed the look and feel of everything. Ryme City feels like a place pulled straight out of the games even though it’s never been in a game. The attention to detail also put into the movie is incredible and you don’t have to know Pokémon to understand everything and appreciate the world. It plays to both fans and newcomers alike, and though the movie works better for those that more familiar with Pokémon and his world you’ll never be lost if you’ve never experienced a Pokémon game.
The performances are kind of hit or miss but most of them work quite well. Ryan Reynolds voices Pikachu and I can speak for everyone when I say I was a little confused when I heard the casting but let me tell you he’s awesome. He elevates the movie so much and makes it a Pokéball of fun. The type of comedy he brings to the movie works for both kids and adults and although it might seem like a PG-13 Deadpool, it never bothered me. Justice Smith plays Tim Goodman and I enjoyed his performance and it illustrates how he’s more than just that annoying screaming guy from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He has some good funny moments as well and the chemistry between him and Ryan Reynolds is great and makes the movie a blast. Kathryn Newton plays the reporter and love interest Lucy Stevens, and she does a decent job, but there were some lines that didn’t quite come out right. Everyone else in the movie is a little cheesy and kinda over the top but it all fits the tone of Pokémon and they were fine for me.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a very fun movie that’s not perfect but it does break the video game movie curse. The world they’ve created is beautiful and Ryan Reynolds kills it as Pikachu. The story may be a bit predictable and performances and writing aren’t as strong as I’d like but the greatest thing this movie has to offer is that it doesn’t alienate new fans while delivering greatly for fans of the franchise. This is no groundbreaking piece of cinema but it is a fun movie with great humor and heart that’s not just kids will enjoy. I also want a give a shout out to the score because I really liked it and plays with video game sounds in a creative way.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)
Pokémon Detective Pikachu finally breaks the curse by bringing a very fun but flawed movie that will please new fans and is a love letter to fans of the franchise with a beautifully realized world, great heart, and humor that outweigh the shallow mystery and okay performances. I look forward to seeing anymore future Pokémon movies set in this universe.