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Ali Plumb reviews Detective Pikachu

Get ready for Ryan Reynolds as you've never seen him before

Warner Bros. Pictures

Detective Pikachu ⭐️⭐️⭐️

21-year-old insurance salesman Tim hasn’t seen his police detective dad for years, but when news arrives that his old man has mysteriously disappeared, he heads to the Pokemon paradise of Ryme City – where humans and Pokemon live side by side – to look into what’s happened.

Poking around his father’s flat, he discovers his dad’s Pokemon partner, “Detective Pikachu”, wandering around with no memory of what has occurred.

Together, Tim and Pikachu must solve the case and save the world, meeting a whole host of different Pokemon along the way, battling the occasional Charizard and negotiating with Mr. Mimes. As you do.

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Pros:

  • Ryan Reynolds plays Detective Pikachu. You may want to read that again. I repeat: Ryan Reynolds plays Detective Pikachu. The actor best known for playing the sweary, sardonic, hyperviolent superhero Deadpool is voicing the yellow electric furry fella, the embodiment of all things cute and sweet. It’s a bold strategy, and honestly, it pays off. Reynolds is on fine, fun form and you’ll laugh a few good laughs at the witty nonsense that comes out of his adorable little face. It shouldn’t work, but it does, and most of the film’s best moments revolve around one of Reynolds’ clever one-liners.
  • Let’s be honest: Pokemon are kinda great, and it’s enjoyable to see all the biggest names in the Pokedex, from Squirtle to Bulbasaur, brought to big budget CGI life in a slick, neon-soaked sci-fi city (pleasingly based on London by the way). But I really should call attention to how well they tackled the live-action transformation of Pikachu himself, one of the most loved cartoon characters of the past couple of decades. This is not a Sonic situation, or even a Will Smith Genie affair – this is a proper slam-dunk success. He’s perfectly done, capturing the supercute soul of Pikachu whilst still allowing for Reynolds’ sarcastic and snarky voice.
  • This is very much a kids’ film of course, but there is a relatively twisty, turny, adult plot at the centre of it all. The scriptwriters have a decent crack at giving us a Pokemon movie that has a bit of depth and a few zigs and zags. It’s not up there with Zootropolis in that regard, but it’s a fair effort.

Cons:

  • During the film, I thought “What the hell am I watching?” about six times, often in a good way. I wanted it to be wilder, wackier, more bizarre. It feels too tied to its own story, to its own Pokemon lore, for it to really breathe on its own. You want the filmmakers to take the world of Pokemon and play around with it more. Reynolds as Pikachu, sure, in a detective story, got it, but everything around it is very… expected. Very Pokemon. It’s mad as a bag of spanners, but somehow not quite as mad as you want it to be. You want it to be wilder, funnier and more self-aware, but it’s too loyal to its origins. Hmm. I can’t believe I’m giving a movie that on paper is properly out-there - “Welcome to Ryme City, where superpowered animals live side by side with humans, here’s a duck with explosive headaches, enjoy!” - three stars, but there you have it. It’s kiddy. It’s Pokemon. It’s okay.
  • The actors are underserved left and right, from reliably brilliant Bill Nighy to the often excellent Kathryn Newton (Big Little Lies, Blockers, Lady Bird, Ben Is Back). The focus has been put on the central pairing of Tim (Justice Smith) and Detective Pikachu, but the rest are cardboard cut-out cartoonish characters that don’t feel real in the slightest. These are the roles that betray the promising potential of the movie, that remind you it’s a goofy kids’ film based on a 1996 Game Boy game. It’s a shame, but that’s part of what Pokemon is, it seems.
  • To say so feels like accusing a duck of wantonly quacking, but this Pokemon movie doesn’t make sense. There are a couple of glaring plot holes that destroy the story’s whole premise, so if you’re looking to have a good time with this film, find the switch in the back of your head you reserve for junk food cinema like Fast And The Furious and most Jason Statham movies and flick it to the dial marked “Do not analyse the conceit”. Trust me, you’ll need to.

Three word review: “Pika pika pika!”