Film Review: “Detective Pikachu”

“Detective Pikachu” features delightfully cute renditions of pokémon but ultimately fails to electrify audiences.

“Detective Pikachu” is a mystery-slash-fantasy film based on the internationally popular Pokémon franchise created by Satoshi Tajiri. Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is an unmotivated insurance worker, living in a small town with his grandmother. When his father dies in a mysterious accident, Tim travels to Ryme City, where pokémon creatures and humans live in harmony. There, Tim meets Pikachu, an amnesiatic pokémon (Ryan Reynolds) with whom he can communicate. When the duo discovers that Tim’s father may be alive, Tim and Pikachu band together with reporter Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) and her pokémon Psyduck in order to find out the truth. However, what the trio discover threatens to endanger the entire world, humans and pokémon alike.

Fans of the Pokémon games and television series have had high expectations for this film, with many expressing the hope that “Detective Pikachu” will be the first game-based film that is considered well-executed in a very long time. Many people were excited by the film’s choice to cast Ryan Reynolds, of “Deadpool” fame, as the voice of cute and fluffy Detective Pikachu, and others felt that the animation of traditionally 2D pokémon was done in an accurate and adorable manner. Either way, the general response following the film’s first trailers was widely positive. However, though these facets of the film seemed to hint at success, they were, disappointingly, some of the only enjoyable aspects of the entire film.

The premise of the film is original enough and it creates the character of Tim with relative ease and emotional depth. Unfortunately, something feels off right away.. Perhaps it is the awkward and oftentimes unbelievable acting choices of the main characters, or even the strange pacing and organization of key events in the film. Regardless of these aspects, the film suffers terribly due to poor writing and line execution. In particular, the character of Lucy is incredibly poorly wrought and her introduction is cheesy and overdone. Attempting to rationalize the poor writing choices in these instances proved futile. There is a small chance that these moments were subtle nods to the brash and bombastic introductions of characters within the Pokémon games. However, even this excuse could not correct the abrupt tonal shift in her truly cringe-worthy introduction and, honestly, later lines as well.

Additionally frustrating were plot points in which characters’ actions or abilities do not seem to make sense. Examples include scenes where the villain seems to triumph over having caught our protagonists, only to inexplicably cut to the heroes walking away from the altercation at a leisurely pace. Or, perhaps, how Detective Pikachu’s special abilities are never explained or resolved. The pokémon of the film are very cute and fascinating to watch in semi-realistic renderings, but they sadly cannot compensate fully for the clumsy handling of plot and very poor writing.

“Detective Pikachu” will certainly charm audiences with its endearing animated pokémon and heartwarming themes of love and companionship. There are a few humorous moments and it was generally enjoyable to watch. Given the usual results of game to film adaptations, this movie was certainly a step in the right direction. However, “Detective Pikachu” ultimately falls short of what fans had hoped for because adorable animated pokémon could not make up for its inadequate script and inauthentic acting.

Grade: C+
Release Date: May 10, 2019
Starring: Justice Smith, Ryan Reynolds, Kathryn Newton
Director: Rob Letterman
Rated: PG

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