Title: Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Describe This Movie In One Peanuts Quote:
CHARLIE BROWN: How can I remember the face I can’t forget?
Brief Plot Synopsis: Pika pika, pika pika pika. Pika pi-pikachu. Psyduck.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 bottles of aspirin out of 5.
Better Tagline: “Probably not as creepy as that Sonic movie.”
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Former Pokémon trainer Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) mostly wants nothing to do with his former career and is content to work a boring desk job until word comes that his father, a detective in Ryme City, is missing and presumed dead. Tim meets his dad’s partner Pokémon, an amnesiac Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) that speaks English and believes himself a detective. Together with an ambitious news intern (Kathryn Newton), they try to figure out what happened to the papa Goodman.
“Critical” Analysis: Pokémon Detective Pikachu looks like a kids movie, right? It’s about an adorable yellow mouse creature in a deerstalker hat trying to piece together recent events with the help of a young man searching for his missing father. And it takes place in a city inhabited by humans and pocket monsters alike.
It’s sourced from a video game, yes, but that’s not enough of a qualifier in a world where horror movies like the Resident Evil franchise and the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog adaptation exist (prove us wrong on that last one). More to the point, it’s that rare adapation of a video game based on another video game, in this case Nintendo’s Detective Pikachu, though the enduring popularity of the mobile Pokémon Go game no doubt contributed to the decision to greenlight this.
And kids love film noir, right? Ryme City is reminiscent of Blade Runner’s Los Angeles, only with less rain, cigarettes, and murder. There is a femme fatale — sort of — along with a devastating-ish betrayal, Pikachu also drinks coffee like other gumshoes quaff cheap rotgut, and there’s not one but *two* plot twists. True, Smith and Newton don’t have a lot of chemistry, but this really isn’t the venue for smoldering attraction. Call it “Nintendoir” and be done with it.
Of course, there are also the Pokémon. There’s no way to tell how many of the [Googles] 809 species of monster are represented here, but it’s a not insignficant number. Most are grotesquely adorable, which is probably how the movie (and entire game franchise, for that matter) gets away with such vile exploitation.
Because while they’re referred to as “partners” for the humans, and we get some lip service at the beginning about how a Pokémon has to choose his human as well (this, while Tim is trying to capture a Cubone). We’re meant to be disarmed by the appearance of cooperation and friendship, but make no mistake: a species that has to be “caught” before being deployed into a fighting arena to duel its own kind is not a “partner.” It’s a slave.
And if you think that’s inaccurate, bear in mind that the only Pokémon here with the ability to speak (aside from Pikachu), is Mewtwo, the “most evolutionarily advanced” one of all, and he’s either in captivity or mind controlled for nearly the entire movie.
Hyperbole aside, Detective Pikachu is mostly innocuous, and suffers most from its unwillingness to lean fully into the insanity of its premise. There are moments when you can practically taste Reynolds wanting to cut loose, and Smith is an able physical comedian. Contrast that with Ken Watanabe (as Det. Yoshida) acting like his agent told him this was a remake of Out of the Past and everybody around him just went with it. It’s an interesting, if haltingly successful experiment.
Ask A 9-Year Old:
Me: So Psyduck’s whole thing is, he blows up?
9YO: Kind of. When do I get to see Deadpool?
Me: Ask me in five years.