Pika Pika everyone! This is a video game adaptation that is actually *gasp* good!
From it’s humble beginnings in the mid-90’s as a Game Boy console game to the animated series that gave way to feature films, a card game, countless other video games, and the still-popular Pokemon Go!, the Pokemon franchise has been a stable part of multiple generations for over twenty years. Now in 2019, we have a live-action/CGI hybrid of the 2016 Pokemon spinoff Detective Pikachu, and for a video game adaptation, this is probably the best we have had in some time, if ever. As a film overall, it’s lighthearted, funny, touching, and as good as a Pokemon movie of this nature can get.
Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) sells insurance as a young adult, but as a child, he had aspirations of being a Pokemon trainer. After his father, Harry, pursued a career with the Ryme City police, he left Tim to live with his grandmother after Tim’s mother passed away, and he suppressed those trainer dreams away. After learning that Harry was in an accident and passed away, Tim travels to Ryme City to collect his father’s things, only to find that Harry’s Pikachu is at his apartment, and the story unfolds as to whether or not Harry is actually dead, and who is responsible.
From a storytelling perspective, the screenplay (which is credited to four screenwriters and three story by credits), fells a bit jumbled at times, and the jokes not always landing. This isn’t to say that the movie isn’t funny, thanks in large part to the voice work of Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu. The film has a clear three-act structure with a pace that doesn’t feel anywhere near it’s 104-minute runtime. You feel engaged throughout, so this will be a better “for the whole family” family film than say, UglyDolls, which came out the week prior and is geared more towards the younger crowd, leaving the adults in the dust.
Technically, the merging of the CGI animated Pokemon characters and the human counterparts are as good as they can be with how complex the film is and how many Pokemon they interject in the film. There are a few bits where the graphics looked a little off, but not enough to distract from the whole of the film. The scene where Tim first arrives to Ryme City (where humans and Pokemon live together in harmony) is a great example of how they get this integration right, as the Tokyo-style intersection is flooded with Pokemon and humans.
Overall, whether it be you as an adult with a love of the franchise or if you have children who are fans of Pokemon, you will love this movie. You get a sense of excitement when you see your favorites pop on screen, with a shout out to my personal favorite Psyduck for having a big role in the film as the Pokemon partner of reporter Lucy (Kathryn Newton). If you are not a fan, you will still find a good film here that you can follow along with without it coming off as condescending towards Pokemon newbs. Overall, my grade for Pokemon Detective Pikachu is a B+.
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