Pokémon Detective Pikachu

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A young man teams up with Detective Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) to find his missing father in this live action family adventure co-written and directed by Rob Letterman (Goosebumps).

When ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, his 21-year-old son Tim (Justice Smith, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) sets out to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s wise-cracking former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu. Uniquely able to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on an adventure to unravel the mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City — a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side — they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the Pokémon universe.

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Adventure, Comedy, Kids & Family, Fantasy, Blockbuster

104mins

Rating: PG Mild themes and fantasy violence, some scenes may scare younger children

USA

From the Game Boy RPGs and the viciously popular '90s cartoon to the Pokémon GO app that made zombies of us all, Pokémon has never stopped being relevant. It's surprising that a live-action movie has taken this long to arrive. It's even more surprising they adapted an obscure 3DS spinoff title rather than one from the core adventure series. The most surprising thing, though? Detective Pikachu is a videogame movie that doesn't suck.

As with 2015's Goosebumps, director Rob Letterman goes off the beaten path with the Pokémon property by doubling down on the crime mystery feel with superb neon-noir lighting and a moody synth score. The gorgeously rendered Pokémon sport ultra-fine details that never detract from their original designs (take note Sonic, you unholy freak of nature) and while there are HEAPS in this film, Letterman highlights key characters instead of fan favourites. The rest fill in the environment rather than take it over, reflecting the film's wise goal of favouring genre over nostalgia.

Unfortunately, Detective Pikachu favours its world over its story too. Whether it's due to sloppy writing or staying too faithful to the 3DS game, the script gives no opportunity for the audience to solve the case since the climax introduces an out-of-nowhere element that renders any previous guesswork pointless.

At least Ryan Reynolds scores a solid hit-miss joke ratio of about 4:1 as the voice of Detective Pikachu. He's given so many one-liners, in fact, that there's not much more to the character than 'cute', 'funny' and 'I've got amnesia'. When the film tries to get emotional and serious, it doesn't give the audience much to work with.

Justice Smith doesn't get much to work with either as reluctant partner Tim, but he tries his hardest. While he sells the physical interplay between himself and the CGI rodent, his character's such a wet blanket that you never fully buy him and Pikachu as buddies. That's a big short-coming for a buddy-cop film.

Is it harsh to mark down a children's crime film for not nailing its narrative? When films like Zootopia exist, I think not.

Fortunately, the concept fires on enough cylinders to prevent the story from being a write-off. Big Little Lies star Kathryn Newton delivers an on-point performance as an unpaid intern trying a little too hard to be a hard-edge journo and one ingenious twist manages to be both hilariously absurd and perfectly foreshadowed. It's also admirable to see a takehome message for a blockbuster family film that favours a trust in nature over human dominance. With climate change closing in on us, it just feels like the responsible thing to do.

The Guardian

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The inspired casting of the Deadpool actor transforms this from an average Pokémon movie into fun family fare.

Variety (USA)

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Its box office should demonstrate fans' hunger for a more robust big-screen version of the Pokémon universe, while the disappointment needn't dissuade another team from coming along and doing it right.

Hollywood Reporter

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Still, there's enough here to please both Pokemaniacs and the Poke-non.

Empire (UK)

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It's impossible to overstate how much this film owes to Ryan Reynolds. Even if you don't understand Pikachu's world, everyone can understand a great joke superbly delivered.

Screen International

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Much like its title character - an adorable little fuzzy yellow whatsit bearing the smart-aleck voice of Ryan Reynolds - "Pokemon Detective Pikachu" is an odd creation powered by contradictory impulses.

Total Film (UK)

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Reynolds and Pikachu make an inspired combo in a CGI/live-action mash-up that otherwise adheres to a rigidly boilerplate formula.

The Times (UK)

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Fortunately, the ever-likeable Reynolds is equal to the task, channelling the savvy exuberance (but not the rude bits) of his Deadpool persona.

NZ Herald (Karl Puschmann)

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Pokemon Detective Pikachu plays it smart by honouring the decades of lore that have made the critter-catching video game and cartoon series so beloved, while also ignoring all that to create its own unique story.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)

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However, while it doesn't quite reach either the nostalgia or quality heights of this past summer's Bumblebee (currently Mr Eight's No. 1 movie), this is finally a Pokemon movie worth catching while seated alongside your kids.

It has the cuteness and nostalgia expected of a Pokémon movie, but Reynolds snark is timid at best

Ryan Reynolds has been quite rightly riding a high recently thanks to the popularity of Deadpool and Deadpool 2, and Hollywood has become obsessed with squeezing every dollar from the global audiences by inserting his ever-dry sarcastic humour into as many intellectual properties as possible. The latest involves Reynolds voice acting for anime favourite Pikachu, in the first "live-action" Pokémon movie.

Of course, live-action is a term that is bandied about with little regard to the actual true meaning (just like all those teenage girls that claim they are "literally dying" when their eyebrows aren't on fleek). Pokémon Detective Pikachu is an amalgamated film with both live-action humans and CGI where the Pokémon are involved. These are actually the two major strengths of the film; Reynolds voice acting, and the beautifully rendered Pokémon.

Granted there is a certain amount of inconsistency in how the Pokémon have been digitally designed for the movie. Many of the smaller Pokémon are incredibly adorable with soft fur, glossy eyes, and little button noses, but at the same time, many of the larger Pokémon are created with a much darker, more sinister look. It creates uncertainty when you are trying to pinpoint the demographic that the studio is trying to target. The film is clearly based on an anime that is targeted at young audiences, and yet some of the darker set and character designs could scare a younger child.

The film tries to have its cake and eat it too, attempting to service the needs of both young fans of the current generations of Pokémon, as well as the older audiences that are drawn to the film for its snarky humour and nostalgia value. The writers chose the Pokémon that would feature very well, choosing to focus mostly on the first generation Pokémon; larger roles go to the likes of Pikachu, Mr Mime, Charizard, Bulbasaur, Mewtwo, and Psyduck.

If you are happy to see animated Pokémon brought to life in a "real-world" setting, with a semi-cohesive plot, then the film certainly delivers. Pokémon Detective Pikachu is not going to win any awards for its dialogue, scripting, or character development. It's simply showing you Pokémon with a more realistic design, and when you watch Pikachu unruffling his fur, or appreciate the gorgeous vibrant colours in Bulbasaur eyes, it fills you with a sense of childish glee.

A fun, family-friendly, buddy-cop film, the plot is much more human-centric than I would have liked. The Pokémon are the highlight of the film and the poorly written script doesn't do justice to the human actors (Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, and Bill Nighy). Really, the entire film hinges on Reynolds performance, and he does really well considering the human aspect is brought to the forefront.

It's exactly what you expect. Completely predictable if you put any thought into it, with a pretty straightforward story. But with some absolutely fabulous character designs and some comedic gold from Ryan Reynolds, Pokémon Detective Pikachu succeeds at creating an overwhelmingly positive experience.


It's adorable in the weirdest way

This movie is fun, adorable, and weird.

I was never into Pokemon as a kid so I only knew the bare minimum going into it. I felt like they could have developed the world the characters lived in a bit more but it didn't go too deep and was quite a lighthearted and funny film.

Pikachu is definitely the highlight of this movie. He's adorable yet a humorous character thanks to the voice acting of Ryan Reynold, which makes it seem like it wouldn't work but it does.

I didn't care much for the main guy, Tim Goodman (played by Justice Smith) so his deep character storyline with his father, didn't hit me in the feels all that well.

At times it can be quite cheesy especially with the villains of this film but what more could I expect from a Pikachu movie?

The animation is great and you can see the attention to detail put into all the Pokemon and made me want to get into the franchise a bit more since they were so adorable.

Overall, it's a pretty entertaining film especially if you're a Pokemon fan since you'll probably get excited seeing different characters or terms you're already familiar with, but just don't go expecting it to be a deep and cinematic detective movie.