‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ review: What fanboy dreams are made of

Pokémon Detective Pikachu instantly evokes a sense of wonder and excitement made palpable by its goofy charms and photo-realistic details.

It won’t take a while for viewers to get sucked into Ryme City – a utopian metropolis where wild Pokémons and humans peacefully coexist together. For the uninitiated, these Pokémons are huggable pets that come in different shapes and sizes. For fanboys – including this writer who has played multiple versions of the game back in the day – it’s basically playing “Who’s that Pokémon?” as we try to spot as many as we can in any given frame. Much of the world building here is how the film naturally integrates these adorable creatures in mundane human activities. Look, there’s a squad of Squirtles putting out a fire! A Jigglypuff lulling its customer to sleep! A Ludicolo casually working as a barista! I can easily turn this review into a listicle of all the Pokémons that appeared in this film. Detective Pikachu is an obvious nostalgia bait, especially for the children of 90’s who have maintained their love for the Nintendo property. There’s something magical in seeing a proper live-action Pokémon film for the first time.

Mr. Mime is a scene-stealer in this movie. Oh, and his “hair” is actually a pair of horns. Let that sink in.

The casual moviegoer won’t be alienated however, even if the only character they know here is the yellow furball known as Pikachu. Bringing in a less sarcastic brand of humor, Ryan Reynolds doing the voicework, proves to be a silly yet inspired casting choice. Even if you don’t have the faintest idea how this world operates, viewers sure do know how to appreciate a good joke. When it comes to the fun department, Reynolds and director/co-writer Rob Letterman is quite, to borrow a catchphrase, “super effective.” And since this is a family friendly movie, Pikachu does not curse and we forget for a while that this is practically Deadpool’s voice talking to us.

Hot on the trails. Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) and Tim (Justice Smith)

It’s a massive gamble not to include familiar faces like Ash Ketchum, Misty or Brock, but the core success of this franchise has always been the intimate friendship between the Pokémons and their trainers, regardless which character leads the story. In Detective Pikachu, the eponymous electric mouse teams up with Tim Goodman (Justice Smith brings warmth to his role) whose estranged father Harry is either dead or gone missing. Also for some reason, only Tim has the ability to understand all the words coming out from Pikachu’s mouth. Rounding up this buddy comedy/mystery is an intrepid TV intern Lucy (Kathryn Newton) who fancies herself as an investigative reporter. She’s paired up with arguably the second worst Pokémon next to a Magikarp – Psyduck. The poor fella has to listen to spa music so it’s head won’t explode in confusion.

Facing an unknown threat. Psyduck and Lucy (Kathryn Newton).

As the crew unravel the truth behind Harry’s disappearance, they stumble upon underground battles, experimentation facilities and an overpowered Mewtwo. As a kiddie detective noir, the whole experience is refreshing and easy to follow. Sure, at some point, the film struggles to deliver a coherent story especially once the twists of the third act fail to make sense. But with all the dazzling stunts happening on screen, we can easily brush off this forgivable flaw.

Pokémon Detective Pikachu undeniably breaks the video game adaptation curse. In fact, it’s the best one out there yet! On an aesthetic level, it’s a lush and lovely imagination of an alternate world. Like Pikachu, it comes out as a beacon of joy and hope. It’s breezy story leaves more themes for exploration and I can’t wait to revisit this place again. In case it’s not clear, I would like to order a cinematic universe please.

4 out of 5 stars
Directed by Rob Letterman, written by Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman and Derek Connolly, Pokémon Detective Pikachu stars Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe, Chris Geere, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Rita Ora, Karan Soni and Josette Simon. 104 minutes. Based on the game ‘Detective Pikachu’ by The Pokémon Company. 109 minutes. Rated PG.

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