I’ll be completely honest right up front – I’ve never played a single Pokemon game, seen a single Pokemon show or movie, or owned a single Pokemon card. I have nothing against it, as I tend to be drawn to most things saddled with the term “nerdy.” I just completely missed the trend. With that said, upon seeing the trailers, I’ll admit I was quite intrigued. I’m a Ryan Reynolds fan and it seemed like they were looking to do something interesting, both visually and creatively. Something akin to the visual flair of Blade Runner meets the wit Roger Rabbit. Sadly, what we actually get is something closer to Michael Bay by way of Nick Jr…but somehow dumber.
The film follows Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) as he returns to his former home of Rhyme City (the one city in the world where humans and Pokemon live together in harmony) to solve the murder of his father. Along the way he meets a talking Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) and a spunky reporter (Kathryn Newton) who are also on the case – hi-jinks & twists ensue.
Now, I’m sure kids and Pokemon diehards will find a decent amount to enjoy here, but if you don’t fall under that category, you’re in for a long hour and forty four minutes.
I’ll hand it to director Rob Letterman (Goosebumps, Shark Tale, Gulliver’s Travels) and his VFX crew – the film does look nice and expensive. The team clearly spent a lot of time getting the Pokemon themselves just right. Cinematographer John Mathieson (Gladiator, Logan) also makes some interesting visual choices throughout. Director, Rob Letterman, just clearly doesn’t have an ear for dialogue or an eye for a good performance.
This brings us to the big problem with Detective Pikachu, which is the gobsmackingly terrible writing, trite characters, and some of the worst acting of the year, even from the veteran actors of the cast (a true mark of poor direction). To make things worse, the dialogue is at least 75% poorly delivered exposition and the plot is littered with holes and extremely questionable motives.
As expected, the great savior of Detective Pikachu is Ryan Reynolds and his charisma, heart, and expert delivery. Without Reynolds and some interesting cinematography and score work, the film would be nearly unwatchable. Every scene Reynolds is in is almost like a different movie altogether – one that’s actually funny and works emotionally. Sadly, Reynolds’ Pikachu, while he is the title character, is not the main character.
Justice Smith (The Get Down, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), for better or for worse, is saddled with making this movie work. The problem is that he’s just not quite up to the task. His acting varies wildly in quality throughout, depending on who he’s sharing the scene with. Sadly, he shares a lot of scenes with Kathryn Newton, who, despite some solid performances in Big Little Lies, Blockers, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, is just downright atrocious in this movie – in both character and actual acting quality.
Ultimately, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu is mostly a letdown made only slightly watchable by some visual flair, and a truly brilliant blend of adorable, fuzzy Pikachu visuals and Ryan Reynolds excellent voice acting. I’m sure fans will enjoy seeing their favorite characters brought to life and trying to spot all of the Easter eggs, but the uninitiated may walk out feeling more than a little befuddled and bludgeoned by a mind numbing script and weak acting outside of Mr. Reynolds. On a scale of five stars, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu most certainly does not catch ’em all…not even close.
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars