Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019)
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019) movie review
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is the live action adaptation of the video game Detective Pikachu, a spin-off from the worldwide phenomenon that is Pokémon. For those of you who don’t know, Pokémon is- Nah you know! Everyone does. So in Detective Pikachu we have Justice Smith who, after his father’s disappearance, teams up with an amnesiac Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds to solve the case. Let the record show that outside Smash Bros. and general pop culture knowledge, this is the most exposure I have had to this series. But hey, if you are a Pokémon fan, don’t bother reading this and just go see the movie! If you aren’t a Pokémon fan for whatever reason, feel free to read on! (I’m kidding, Pokémon can keep reading too… primarily because I can’t do anything to stop you now that I’ve posted this.)
I was very excited going into Detective Pikachu. While Ryan Reynolds was absolutely most of that hype, I was looking forward to a story that was able to carry the characters and the world well enough for fans and beginners alike. While certainly not a perfect film, Detective Pikachu is everything it promises to be! Long-time fans will probably love it, and brand-new fans will probably enjoy it as well. The only people who won’t like it are really anyone who doesn’t care for the trailer. If fun characters, exciting action, pop-culture references, and worldbuilding don’t do it for you, the story won’t do it for you.
Let’s get one thing straight: as fun as this film is, Ryan Reynolds carries Detective Pikachu on his back. His blend of comedy and eager sincerity in simply a voice-performance not only manages to be the most consistently entertaining aspect of the film, but the most compelling. I keep hearing that he’s basically doing PG-Deadpool, but I think that’s a disservice to a genuinely great performance here. Not that he’s not great in Deadpool, but I think he does a great job crafting a unique character with his performance here. (I say unique knowing absolutely nothing about the character of Pikachu prior to this movie.) Justice Smith also does a pretty solid job, working well in both the comical and meaningful moments in the film. A few supporting performances feel a bit weak at times, but nobody drags down the film or anything.
The worldbuilding in Detective Pikachu is also a major strength. The subtle introduction to the characters and setting feel natural enough for newcomers, while offering plenty of references and nods for true 90s kids. There are definitely a few jokes I was able to see as a joke and not understand, but I am sure there are just as many moments of pandering to beginners like myself that I didn’t even recognize. The plot does also take several pages from storytelling like Pokémon: The First Movie, meaning that a few elements of the story you just have to roll with. Again, have not seen The First Movie, but I’ve heard that about it. My point with all that is to say try not to curb your expectations based on what you know about buddy comedies.
All that said, I feel like the plot lacked stamina. The more the film went on through expositional twists and turns, the less I cared what was actually going on in the film. I’m not saying I didn’t like the story, just that it feels too unnecessarily complicated at all times. Before the film I was hoping for a Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang level of stakes, but by the end I would have happily settled for at least Zootopia stakes. It may be the execution of some of these twists, as a few felt rather cheesy, while a few others felt too dull. I think the payoff was good enough to wrap everything up though, making it feel a bit like Alita: Battle Angel where the resolution was worth the hassle of getting there in the story.
Fortunately, that’s about it. The quality, including a strong score, fantastic visuals, and great uses of color, all hold the film up well. Toss in plenty of laughs and exciting moments and you have a pretty fun watch! The story is a bit too complex, and there are plenty of moments that don’t work well; but there are so many more that work great! Ryan Reynolds is absolutely the best thing about it, but that doesn’t mean he’s the only good thing about it, as there is plenty here for everyone! I liked it, I’d see it again, and I’d probably own it. Should you see it? Yeah probably! It’s a great time. 7/10.