“It was WONdurFul!” – Kimberly Finke, 33 about to turn 34 year old enthusiastic kid at heart. She’s grew up with Pokemon though. I did too, but we will get to what I thought of it in a minute. The thing is this, if you know absolutely nothing about Pokemon, then POKEMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU is going to fly over your head and you are probably not the least bit interested in watching this movie let alone reading my review for it. Not saying you will hate it, you might even find some parts entertaining (Ryan Reynold’s off the cuff jokes), but you just won’t get it. This movie has a specific target audience. Either you know and love Pokemon or you don’t. You will love the movie, or you will think it is okay and ultimately be baffled by it. Me? There are now three solid video game film adaptations of all time. Mortal Kombat, the new Tomb Raider with Alicia Vikander, and now this. But is that really saying much?
Like with the new Tomb Raider, I’m going to say what I said on that here: the video game movie curse isn’t broken quite yet, but its a helluva step in the right direction (and then will take one step back in the fall when Sonic comes out…). The film actually had a decent plot that wasn’t too contrived or one-note or hokey. I just wish it maybe had a few more twists and was a little more in depth was all. But I also realize you can’t do that with a kids film. So I’ll just brush off my complaint aside. If you were to look really, really closely, the film is basically a beat by beat remake of Ace Ventura: When Nature or a Japanese version of Disney’s Zootopia. Everything in this is very, very, very predictable, and when the movie thinks it is about to lose the interest of the young folk in the audience, it literally stands still for five minutes, telling you exactly what happened, so that they catch up to the adults in the audience that have already figured it out.
Let’s take a step back and I’ll tell you my experience with Pokemon. I was there at the start. I had the Gameboy with the Red and Blue versions, traded with friends using that pesky USB cord. Used my info to sync it up with Pokemon Stadium on the N64, watched the first season of the show, but then like Beanie Babies, after maybe about two years of massive hype, I fell out of it due to my age range, and look back on the experience like I do with POGS now: with a smile on my face and good memories in my head, but also asking the question, “what was I thinking?” I knew going into this that there are about 812 Pokemon now (correct me if I’m wrong) and not just 151. I figured though that with a target audience of fans now in their 30s that grew up with them and getting current fans all on the same page, that they would probably stick to the 151 we knew, with just splashes of the others in there as background noise and to teach the older generation on how everything has evolved into something bigger (I was correct). I also went into this really enjoying the trailers and tv spots so far, and loving the look of the Pokemon interacting with people in the real world (take note Sonic creators).
But did I love the movie and think it was WONdurFul? No. But, I thought it was cute, very well made, I was mildly entertained throughout the whole thing, even smiled when stuff came on screen that I recognized. Memberberries for sure. Would the movie have worked without Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Detective Pikachu? Probably not. Even though one would argue that this is basically just Pikapool and a PG rated version of Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds still knocks it out of the park with his voice acting in this. I have a feeling he ad-libbed a shit ton, and that it was so good that they incorporated it into the movie even though it wasn’t in the script. Great decision by the filmmakers. Color me shocked when they threw in a sexual innuendo or two and even a cocaine joke. Subtle enough that young kids won’t get it though thankfully. Ryan Reynolds could make anybody laugh just reading War and Peace or Gone With The Wind on audio book, that’s how great he is.
As for the plot, do I really need to explain it? In a world where there are still a lot Pokemon in the wild yet there are cities where Pokemon and humans live in harmony, a late teen/early 20’s male who used want to be a Pokemon trainer who is now a insurance agent, gets called back into the fray when his father, a police detective that worked with Pokemon, goes missing and is presumed dead. His father’s Pokemon partner, a Pikachu, shows up at his father’s old place, and the two team up to discover what happened. Like I said, it is fairly easy early on to know what is really going on. Too simple for an adult film, but like I said, this is a film made for those in their 30s that grew up on Pokemon, and their children who might be into Pokemon now. My only other qualm other than the predictable plot and the obvious eye rolling 3rd act typical bad guy reveal is that they revolve it around a certain Pokemon that they have relied on too many times for story and plot devices. Surely there is a different Pokemon that could have some elaborate origin story and mystery. I won’t say which Pokemon that is, but it is very obvious which one in the trailer. Pokemon people now need more of a variety if this film spawns a sequel.
I also wanted more Pokemon battles. I know they didn’t really serve the plot other than one or two of sequences, but the few Pokemon battles in this film were very entertaining and well done. The director, Rob Letterman, didn’t go and do Goosebumps 2 for this film, and he very obviously made the right decision. The acting is good for a kids film too, as supporting characters such as the boy, played by Justice Smith, and an investigative reporter he teams up with, played by Kathryn Newton, made their characters believable enough that I was convinced they were actually talking to cute little monsters walking and talking beside them. Their character arcs, everyone’s character arcs, are one note though.
Wow, I’ve talked about this film haven’t I? Let’s get to the end. If you are one of those people that skip to my last paragraph after reading the first and power reading through the rest, I liked it. It wasn’t great, but it was good and is a very, very solid family film that people taking their kids to the theater would enjoy. Or if you are a woman-child at heart like my friend whose quote I mentioned in the first paragraph. But if you have no interest in Pokemon whatsoever, never have, and are completely befuddled on the hype, this film is not for you. Heck, if you are a kid that doesn’t get Pokemon or see what the fuss is about, this film isn’t for you. However, if you know what that hype was and even dipped a toe in it, and if your kids did or do as well, I can’t think of a better film to go to the theater together and spend sometime eating up some decent member berries. I mean it could be worse, you could’ve shared your love of Game of Thrones and have watched this last season together…