“Pokémon: Detective Pikachu”: SHOCKingly good


Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) and Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) (Warner Bros.)

Video game movies are not known for being good films. In fact, they are known for being so horrendously awful that even the mention of one evokes groans from film critics; look no further than the 1993 “Super Mario Bros.” movie. However, Rob Letterman’s “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” has finally given us the live-action depiction of a beloved video game universe we deserve. This movie isn’t an amazing movie, but it is fun and that’s all it needs to be.

Justice Smith stars as Tim Goodman, a young man who lost his mother at a very young age and whose father works as a detective in Ryme City, a model city based on cohabitation and mutual labor between people and Pokémon. After Tim’s father is apparently killed in a mysterious crash, Tim goes to the city to collect his father’s belongings. There he meets a talking Pikachu who claims to be a detective and his dad’s partner. Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds, tells Tim his father isn’t dead, and the pair set out to find the truth of his father’s disappearance. They discover in the process that not everything is as it seems in Ryme City.

The design of Ryme City is one of the first things you notice about the movie- it’s very impressive. The CGI is so good that you actually forget that Pokémon don’t exist in our world. This isn’t to say there aren’t awkward CGI hiccups, but I think after the “Sonic” trailer came out recently the few that do exist can be forgiven.

Although some critics pan the acting in the film, I’m inclined to say I was impressed with how authentic it felt. The lines were delivered over-the-top and a little hammed up, but it fits with the atmosphere that the movie creates.  Smith and Kathryn Newton, who plays an aspiring reporter and Smith’s love interest, Lucy Stevens, do amazing jobs in their roles, although I do wish Newton’s character had been given more screen time to develop.

Reynolds does a phenomenal job creating a witty, caffeine-addicted Pikachu, who takes advantage of the fact that only one person can hear him. It does feel like he doesn’t have an off switch, as he constantly cracks jokes in every scene, which makes the dialogue hard to follow at times. This is more a fault of the writing, but it is distracting.

The movie does a remarkable job of staying focused and self-contained, considering they have 122 games, 807 Pokémon, 16 animated movies and 19 seasons to draw from. It focuses on a few central characters and Pokémon, which grounds it very nicely. It never feels like it’s trying to do too much too quickly. This isn’t to say it doesn’t draw from the very depths of the Pokéverse, as the supporting character who arguably stole the show is a little-known Pokémon called Psyduck, whose head explodes if his anxiety isn’t controlled. (I feel the same way, Psyduck.)

The third act of the movie is completely insane, filled with easily predictable plot twists and corny villains, but that’s part of what makes it so fun and cheesy to watch. I didn’t know I wanted to watch a Pokémon bounce from one balloon filled with poison gas to another before watching the movie, but now it’s all I want.

“Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” is a fun, easy to watch movie that you’ll enjoy, especially if you like Pokémon or tend towards the young side.