Pokémon Detective Pikachu in a word: Unnecessary.
In two words: A mess.
This is a movie that will appeal to young kids and tweens discovering Pokémon and nostalgic millennials with undiscerning cinematic tastes. It will make more money than it deserves because adults chaperoning younger fans are forced to buy a ticket.
Characters are victims not only of angry, chemical huffing Pokémon, but primarily of a bad script. Having twists and turns is great when done well. But here they are gratuitous and often simply for the sake of having twists and turns. There were several times during the last third of the movie that you will find yourself saying ‘what the hell?’
The Plot Doesn’t Thicken
The plot is simple enough. A young adult’s estranged cop dad dies/disappears while working a case in a city where humans and Pokémon live in a state of symbiosis. Dad’s amnesiatic Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) finds sonny boy,Tim (Justice Smith), and they embark on a case to figure out how Dad died/disappeared and how Pikachu lost his memory.
When you have a Pokémon movie, there is going to be plenty of fantasy elements and you have to be ready to accept that things in that world work differently without fully grasping the power dynamics. That’s fine. But the real fantasy here is that anyone who isn’t/wasn’t a fan would possibly enjoy this movie.
The Pokémon are well drawn. The characters are not. Most of them have the depth of a puddle in the desert. Tim has daddy issues and regret over his failure to make it as a Pokémon trainer. We know this because we are told so in painfully obvious exposition.
Tim’s love interest Lucy (Kathryn Newton) is an intern at the Pokémon news channel and her first words make her sound like a stereotypical reporter from a 1930s whodunit film. At first you think it’s some kind of homage to the era. But as we hear more dialogue from her and others, you get the feeling the writers believe the audience is shallow and stupid and is writing for them. Kids playing Pokémon today are smart and tech savvy and don’t need to be patronized to this extent.
The only engaging character is the titular Pikachu. Early in the film it seems like Ryan Reynolds is doing Deadpool lite. But as the film goes on, he gives Pikachu a sarcastic yet genuine view on life. You actually care if he lives and recovers his memory.
There are other live action supporting characters that are stereotypes and even more underdeveloped than the leads. I did make one prediction in the first 15 minutes that turned out to be wrong, but just barely. And as the critic I watched this with observed, it’s one of the most absurd endings we’ve ever seen.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
A Mind Eraser. I plan on having enough so I forget this movie. Pikachu didn’t appreciate his amnesia.