Movie Review: Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

Click play above to listen to the review


two half stars

PG |

Director: Rob Letterman

by Jason Koenigsberg

For about a decade and a half Ryan Reynolds floundered around Hollywood as a leading man trying to find the perfect star vehicle. Comedies that did not quite hit the mark (2002’s Van Wilder), dramas that failed (Buried from 2010), and action movies that never quite found an audience (2011’s megaflop Green Lantern). But all of that changed around Valentines Day 2016 with Deadpool. With that character, Ryan Reynolds had found his calling. A foul-mouthed, smart-alec, self-aware superhero. It was a hit with critics and audiences and finally gave Ryan Reynolds the blockbuster success that producers, studio heads and his agents all dreamed that the charismatic star was capable of. The problem is that now Ryan Reynolds has or at least finally perfected his shtick. He duplicated his gimmick with diminished results in last years Deadpool 2 and now lends his voice as Detective Pikachu in what is basically a vehicle tailored for his talents. This is nostalgia for millennials with Ryan Reynolds doing his shtick but watered down for PG family-friendly audiences. Kids and real Pokemon fans may enjoy Detective Pikachu, but that is about it. 

The opening shot is of a laboratory secluded by mountains at night. A Pokemon creature is being experimented on and it inevitably escapes and in doing so knocks a car off the road. We then meet our main character trying to catch a Pokemon with his friend and soon he learns that his father was in the car we saw overturned and was killed in the accident. The audience then gets some quick exposition delivered via the TV monitors on the train that this boy takes to Ryme City where his father lived. From this shoddy exposition, we know the history of Ryme City and that this is the only place on Earth where Pokemon and mankind live harmoniously together. During the day it looks like a normal city just with friendly little monsters walking around alongside people. At night the cinematography tries to give the city a film noir look with a lot of shadows and neon lights. 


The young man then meets his father’s Pokemon companion, Detective Pikachu who is looking for clues as to what happened to his friend and partner, the only problem is that he does not remember what happened the night of the accident. From this point on Detective Pikachu turns into a mismatched buddy cop movie of a kid with his wise-cracking Pokemon trying to solve a mystery. As they search for the main characters dad, Detective Pikachu recycles all of the typical cop movie cliches. The only new aspect is that one of the cops is a pokemon that sounds like Deadpool minus the profanity. 

Detective Pikachu does try to be intellectual with themes and jokes involving climate change, anti-genetic testing on animals, and social commentary about the corrupt power of the news media. Most of those themes are just background for the action and the plot but it is worth noting the film attempts to have a deeper meaning. In the end, there is not enough for Pokemon: Detective Pikachu to recommend. Unless you really love these Japanese pocket monsters, or your kids do, this is an easy one to pass on. 

This clip from South Park is what I always think of whenever people talk about Pokemon. The classic episode is about 20 years old and is better than most movies in the multiplex now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s