Like many people of my age, I was addicted to Pokemon as a kid. I spent hours watching the anime on a Saturday morning, collected the playing cards religiously, and played every Game Boy game of it I could get my hands on (including a weird bootleg one I bought in Bulgaria, but I digress) so when I heard of a live-action Pokemon film, I was sceptical.
Not only am I the kind of Pokemon fan who refuses to accept that there are any more than 151 Pokemon but I was concerned about re-designing such well-established characters into a live-action environment.
While there were a few iffy re-designs in my opinion, by and large, I was a fan of most of them, they’re aggressively cute, have to make the most of merchandising after all, but mostly unoffensive, but will they all add together into a good film.
Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is called to Ryme City following the mysterious death of his father. While there, he encounters a curious Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) and gets embroiled in a developing intrigue surrounding a wealthy businessman, and shady experimentation.
The bar isn’t exactly high for video game films, so much so, that a video game movie that is even decent is showered with unwarranted praise for just being not as bad as the others.
Detective Pikachu had a lot riding on it, not only being the first live-action outing of a two-decade plus franchise, but as a standard bearer for video games, it had cute characters and it had the talent, but did it have the charm? Well, yes, for the most part, it does.
It takes a while to get started and it’s more than a little clunky at times, especially before the main plot kicks in, but with Reynolds performance and a richly detailed world, it has more than enough charm to carry itself. It even has a surprisingly decent story, nothing very original, big companies experimenting on things they should experiment on is a well-trodden archetype of science fiction. But the story has just enough twists and turns to keep the formula fresh.
Another draw to the film is the voice performance from the endlessly charismatic and likeable Ryan Reynolds, who injects the film with the jolt of life it sorely needed to get going. Before we encounter Pikachu, the film feels flat and lifeless, only when the adorable critter appears does the film perk up and the films narrative begin to chug along at a nice pace, moving just slowly enough for the potential young audience to follow what’s going on, and just fast enough for them to not get bored, add in the nostalgia appeal to older audiences and you have a winning formula.
Supporting Reynolds’ starring performance is a capable and varied cast, containing veterans on the screen such as Bill Nighy, as well as rising stars such as the co-lead Justice Smith, someone who still seems to be finding his feet as an actor, the films clunkier moments come via Justice, who at times just seems like a passenger of this vehicle as opposed to the driving emotional heart.
Aside from that, the film is a bright exercise in nostalgia, brimming with charm and character and with something to offer for the younger Pokemon fan, and the old-timers like myself, who have fond memories of the old days. It comfortably vaults the low bar for video-game movies and settles nicely into a niche all of its own. It’s hard to watch this film and not enjoy it, even if it’s hardly groundbreaking and a tad on the clunky side, it’s just a good nostalgic ride.