Whenever someone takes on an intellectual property that doesn’t have an obvious tie-in to a movie/plot, you have to hold your breath. (I am still pissed off that we didn’t get a “You sank my battleship!” out of Peter Berg’s 2012 Battleship). And when you know nothing about the said intellectual property, it can be an even more fraught movie-going experience. So it is with that in mind that I took a visit to the local cinema to see Pokémon Detective Pikachu.
Now, you need to understand that I started this movie understanding about three things in total about the Pokémon world.
- It has cute little anime-ish characters
- There was a game that was popular a couple summers back when you had to try and catch said cute creatures and
- It wasn’t my bag other than John and Hank Green made Pokémon name jokes on their podcast that made me laugh.
That isn’t to say I have/had animosity towards the Pokémons or their leaders. It just came to be at a certain time when my mind/heart must have been focused on other things because it just never was on my radar. So in some ways, I am a perfect reviewer for this film for all the parents who are going to be drug to the theater by their kids and just try and make it through. So how does it hold up under those circumstances?
First, I was genuinely surprised that Detective Pikachu has a coherent, relatively easy to understand plot that made sense to me even though I am not a Pokémon guy. There is a basic set up and follow through that works. The main character is a former Pokémon fan that now has to come to the big city where Pokémon and people peacefully coexist to see about the death of his detective father.
From there, he meets a Pikachu that he can understand, which is evidently unheard of. From there, the two new partners go on an adventure. And, I have to say, while it isn’t a revolutionary film in terms of plot and structure, it isn’t awful either. I was able to understand it, there were some shifts and surprises, and there was just enough exposition when needed.
Second, the movie is pretty well made. After the plot, you have to work to make a passable Hollywood film and Detective Pikachu does it pretty well! Going in, I suspect that most people are only going to know that Ryan Reynolds is doing the voice acting for the Detective Pikachu character. But the rest of the cast does well, too.
Justice Smith (not related to the Fresh Prince in anyway) plays the main character and he does good work here. Over the course of the story, he has to react to and deal with lots of different things and some of those were likely a tennis ball on a pole when he acted in person and then added in later digitally. That cannot be the easiest task to do and make it seem real and genuine. Smith does well as the main and the rest of the cast does as well; female love interest and news intern Kathryn Newton is another cast member that excels in the film.
Finally, by the end, I cared about what was happening. I didn’t come into Detective Pikachu invested at all and, yet, by the dramatic Act 3 turn, I definitely wanted to understand what was happening and wanted to see a successful resolution to the plot. Recognizing that I am being super vague because I don’t want to spoil the movie, it comes to a satisfying and full conclusion that I really liked.
So should you try and catch them all? I don’t know. But this film is a good summer flick that should be fun for anyone in the audience and probably a much better experience if you have some Pokémon fanatics in your group.
And if you are a Pokémon fanatic yourself, there is a set of Pokémon cards that features art lifted straight out of the movie just for you!