In Brief: Pokemon fans will love this one. The rest of us — in spite of Ryan Reynolds voicing Pikachu — won’t.
Justice Smith plays Tim Goodman. In the Pokemon universe, most people have a Pokemon pet. Like some people don’t like cats or dogs, Goodman is not comfortable around Pokemon.
Goodman learns his estranged police detective father has been killed in a car crash. He travels to Ryme City where Pokemon aren’t wild and live side-by-side with humans. In his dad’s apartment, Goodman discovers two critical clues to his father’s death. The first is a gas that turns harmless, peaceful Pokemon into frightening, violent creatures.
The second is Detective Pikachu. He was father’s partner.
In the Pokemon universe only special people can understand and communicate with Pokemon. Inhaling the gas gives Goodman the power to talk to Detective Pikachu. They form a bond and go after the baddies responsible for dad’s death. Their investigation — with the help from a lady TV reporter — uncovers a plot by an evil corporation to take over the Pokemon universe.
I don’t know much about Pokemon other than the name Pikachu, and that he — in the late 1990s — was the best known of the bunch. To truly understand the movie, I sought out some professional Pokemon advice to take with me on that trip. The expert is my grandson Alex.
He grew up with them, is now 24 and has actually played, and won, the game the film is based upon.
Alex Insisted on filling me in on the nuances of the game and the Pokemon universe. I learned that Pokemon was first a game. It became so popular that an anime TV series was started. Then there were several straight to video movies.
My grandson the Pokemon professional wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any of the inside jokes that might be found in the script. His tutoring — it turns out — was much more interesting than the movie. There are very few inside Pokemon jokes.
Ryan Reynolds gives voice to Pikachu. Who better to add comedy and witty one-liners to a film than Reynolds? In this case he gets a fail. Reynolds tries — as does Goodman and the other stars — to make this movie fun and funny.
It is an exercise in futility.
A lot of us expected zingers like Reynolds did in the two Deadpool movies. He gets off a few but not enough to have you leaving the theater with a huge grin on your face as you regurgitate this line or that.
The short Mr. Mime bit is really funny but not much else in the movie generates much in the way of laughs. More Mr. Mime might have helped.
Part of the film’s troubles is four writers. They include director Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens) and Derek Connolly (Jurassic World, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Safety Not Guaranteed). The other two writers only have TV writing experience.
That experience shows.
As a group they never quite get to the cleverness that Letterman gave us in Monsters vs. Aliens, or that Connolly tossed out in the little seen but crafty, Safety Not Guaranteed. Instead we’re given a plot that plods along the lines of his work on the two deadly dull Jurassic World movies.
So other than some great special effects and Mr. Mime, this film fails at all levels. I’m also not a big fan of anime. Think of Pokemon Detective Pikachu this way. It’s live anime. The only people who’ll totally love this film will be Pokemon fans like my grandson Alex.
By the way, he liked it enough to say he’s going to see it again and that he’ll buy the DVD when it it is released. Is that a recommendation? Yes. But not from me. This one comes from Alex.
Director: Rob Letterman
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Billy Nighy, Ken Watanabe, Chris Geere, Suki Waterhouse
This one will likely only work for fans of Pokemon and Pikachu. It certainly didn’t work for me. Give this a less than friendly Friday Flicks rating of 2 on the 0 to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.