Pokémon is a welcome relief from today’s superhero world. There is still an excess of CGI effects and our hero still needs to save the world, but the stars are cute little critters and the dialog is peppered with witty and sarcastic one-liners. The primary audience is the twenty-somethings and their kids but can be enjoyable for any demographic.
For the uninitiated, Nintendo’s Pokémon (pocket monsters) is the second best-selling video game series behind Nintendo’s Mario Brothers games. With Pokémon TV shows, movies, comics, toys and music, it is now the highest-grossing media franchise of all time. As a salute, the opening credits are in a Japanese-style font.
Although there are now about 800 different Pokémon characters, this live-action adventure features only about 60 of the species. Director Rob Letterman (“Gulliver’s Travels”) is clearly not out to compete with “Avengers” at any level but does boast a devoted fan base eager to see their childhood buddies come to life on the screen.
The story begins when veteran detective Harry Goodman is presumed to be deceased. When Harry’s 21-year-old son Tim (Justice Smith) travels to Ryme City to collect his father’s effects, a budding CNM reporter named Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), convinces Tim that his father just might not be gone after all.
Ryme City is a unique place where Pokémon’s co-exist with humans in their everyday world. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds reprises his hilarious “Deadpool” shtick, minus the potty mouth. This adorably cute super-sleuth is a puzzlement to Tim and even to himself.
To be clear, entering the theater, we didn’t know a Metatod from a Kakuna from a Weedle, and still don’t. Many references were flying over our heads, but if you just focus on Reynold’s non-stop quips and banter with Tim, as well as the adorable little fuzzies, this movie is mostly entertaining, but if not into this genre, it can become a little boring.
Tim is not so keen on Pokémon’s, but for some reason, can communicate with Pikachu. They decide to join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. The only problem is, for some reason, Pikachu has lost his memory. Nevertheless, they begin chasing clues in this hyper-realistic live-action world.
Together, they encounter the diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could threaten the entire Pokémon universe. Just maybe they could persuade Mewtwo to come to their rescue, as Pikachu says, “I have amnesia, but I’m pretty sure this is the worst idea I’ve ever had.”
For those who saw “Paper Towns” (2015), Justice Smith’s character sings the Pokémon theme song in a strip mall. The studio executives preparing to make this movie instantly knew they wanted him for this part. Pikachu explains, “It’s what the French call ‘Fiesta Caliente’.” As good as this movie can be for Pokémon fans and most kids, it’s Reynolds’ rude and crude detective that keeps this movie interesting. We also enjoyed seeing British actor, Bill Nighy and legendary Japanese actor Ken Watanabe.
“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is 104 minutes and rated PG for action, peril, rude and suggestive humor and thematic elements. The trailer was viewed 100 million times in the first 24 hours on social media. We are not into video games, but this is clearly the best video game movie we’ve seen yet. Stay tuned for “Angry Birds” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” movies later this year.
Pokémon is not for everyone but can be fun. The effects are not at the level of a superhero movie but don’t need to be. Many mainstream critics hated this lighthearted comedy, but as a Pokémon explains, “You can feel its right even when everyone tells you you’re wrong.” If you’re into the whole video game genre, Pokémon Go!
Ron’s Rating: B Leigh’s Rating: C+