It’s been with trepidation that fans of Pokémon have been awaiting the arrival of the first live-action adaptation of the mega-franchise to the big screen. From the first images of Pokémon: Detective Pikachu’s screen-version of Pikachu as a furry and learning that it would be Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds giving the little yellow guy his voice, there’s been concerns about how it would play out. Now it’s finally opening in theaters everywhere and the result winds up being a passible little film, but stuck somewhere in the middle of where it might have been.
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The film’s human lead, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s Justice Smith plays Tim Goodman, the estranged son of a detective who has recently been killed in a car accident while on a case. Tim heads to the city (which happens to be a Pokémon-human utopia where everyone lives alongside each other) to deal with closing up his father’s affairs. He winds up meeting his dad’s Pikachu Pokémon partner, and together they set out to find out the details around his fathers death.
Fans of Who Framed Rodger Rabbit will find no small number of parallels to the shape of the story, but rather than a world filled with smack-talking Toons, there’s a world filled with a bewildering range of Pokémon. The movie does the audience the favor of not trying to explain it or how it all works, they just run with similar rules to how everything works in the video games. From there the audience can either choose to run with it, or not, but those in the latter camp will likely not have picked this film to see to begin with.
For fans of the franchise, there’s no end of moments throughout the film where audiences can point out their various favorite Pokémon, The caper itself isn’t too scary for those younger viewers, and it’s not too pedantic for adults. With Reynolds voicing Pikachu it’s a bit distracting to hear Deadpool’s various quips (though without Deadpool’s F-bombs) coming out of the beloved character. More often than not it feels like it’s Reynolds, rather than a character. There’s some moments of action, and not a lot of logic, but when we’re talking about a world populated with Growlithes, Lickitungs, Cubones, and more than 40 other types that I’d noticed in the first viewing along, you just have to go with the movie world’s own set of rules.
If there’s anything that the film falters at is that the film seems more targeted to either the novice or uninitiated members of the audience to Pokémon storylines (remember that there’s been some 22 animated films and more than 1000 animated episodes already created), rather than those who are longtime devotees. So while that’s great for those who are new and needed a softer landing to get into the world, for the hundreds of millions of fans who can recite factoids about the franchise, they may find themselves bouncing off the surface of this near Pokémon-lite experience.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu opens everywhere today, and is rated PG.