Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a silly, fun movie that works for people who don’t know a Bulbasaur from a Psyduck but will undoubtedly be an entertainment feast for Pokémon fans.
The film, from director Rob Letterman (Goosebumps – the good one), because as kind of Pokémon Noir as Tim Goodman (Justice Smith – who stole every scene he was in as the scared nerd in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) learns about his private eye father’s death and journeys to Ryme City (where human and Pokémon can live together without constant battles).
While police detective Hide Yoshida (Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai, the 2014 Godzilla) assures Tim that his father’s death was an accident, his encounter with a Pikachu – that he can actually understand – and an encounter with fast-talking reporter wannabe Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton, Supernatural, Big Little Lies) leads him to believe his father’s death was no accident.
When Tim finally decides to investigate, with Lucy – and at the insistence of Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds with exactly the same level or reverence as Deadpool [which is to say, none]), things quickly shift from loving noir spoof to sci-fi/action mode.
Until that shift, Smith is playing the kind of naïve schlub role that might have been played by Jimmy Stewart or Fred MacMurray – while you could see Rosalind Russell or Katherine Hepburn playing Lucy.
That character dynamic remains pretty much throughout – and works as well in both the noir and sci-fi/action parts of the film.
Naturally, Tim’s dad had stumbled onto a horrific (PG-horrific, that) plot – the details of which will not be divulged here – and Tim and Lucy must solve/prevent it.
The plot plays with Ryme City founder Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) and his son Roger (Chris Geere) – hinted one or the other (or both – or neither) might be the villain behind the plot; but only after some excursions into the dark underbelly of the city where unsanctioned Pokémon battles are being held, and the discovery of a purple gas that turns Pokémon nasty.
Part of what makes Pokémon Detective Pikachu work is that it is aware that it’s a gloriously silly movie (even though its characters most definitely don’t), and Smith and Newton have much the same kind of chemistry as Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant or Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn.
By surrounding Smith and Newton with such an amazing supporting cast, Letterman gives them the opportunity to really go for it – and they do.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu might not be great cinema, but it’s definitely great fun – for fans and non-fans alike.
Final Grade: B+