Movies: Pokemon Detective Pikachu

by SC Review Shelby Larsen

No spoilers. Believe me, I couldn’t if I wanted to.

Take a deep breath and let’s plunge in: this movie is better than you might think. In fact, a quick, non-scientific, non-exhaustive survey of internet reviews (although I did look at more than one) rate it as the “best movie to come out of a video game”, or words to that effect. I know, that’s not a high bar. But still.

This movie is best seen in the company of an eight to ten-year-old child, or by someone who still has fond memories of a large binder filled with Pokemon cards. Having none such memories, I took a 12-year-old child, whom I hoped would serve me as a sidekick and interpreter.

So, the basics of what you need to know:

1) Pokemon are little “creatures” with specific abilities, who co-exist with humans, especially in the wild.

2) Each Pokemon character has one or more specific abilities.

3) With the help of human trainers, the Pokemon use those abilities for good or for evil— I’m a little unclear on that part.

4) In the different versions—videogame, card game, cartoon, and now feature film—they are used by their human trainers for good or for evil. I think. Again, I’m not very clear on that part. There are, as in all scenarios generated from videogames, battles with monstrous creatures. Thus, there is probably good and evil involved.

5) Pokemon are able to speak only in various high or low range voices, and only variations of their own species names, for example, picu-picu-picu. Humans must divine the meaning, if any, from emotional tone and rhythm. EXCEPT IN THIS CASE. While all other Pokemon exist within their boundaries, Detective Pikachu, an absolutely darling fluffy something in a deerstalker hat, who has been given the best “cute kitty eyes” since Shrek’s Puss-in Boots, can speak and be understood. This is a good thing, because otherwise the movie would be totally incomprehensible. Ryan Reynolds’ voice and facial motion capture keep Detective Pikachu likeable, lively, and not at all as sickly sweet as the CGI rendering might lead one to expect. Still, I couldn’t resist those eyes,

As we left the movie, I asked my 12 -year-old accomplice to give me his thoughts. “It was good,” he said. “It did a better job than most of them using the standard movie plots. I mean, you knew what was going to happen all along, and what the battle scenes were going to look like, but it was like a real story. And I liked Detective Pikachu.”

What more can I say? It did use standard movie tropes. There were no surprises. It had a happy ending. I am sure that I missed many, many, many subtleties, even more “Easter eggs” caught and appreciated by the cognoscenti, as well as references to character’s abilities. On the other hand, I probably appreciated Detective Pickachu’s deerstalker hat, his coffee addiction, the trench-coated female reporter, and the noir-ish dialogue more than the gaggle of six-year-old boys behind me.

You know what? Like my companion, I like Detective Pikachu/Ryan Reynolds, too. I am not sure I will go to another Pokemon movie without a 12 or younger sidekick. On the other hand, if the game is afoot . . .?

WARNING: This movie depicts a mime.

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