There are basically three types of people who will go to see Pokemon Detective Pikachu: young adults who were into Pokemon as children, children who are currently into it, and parents dragged to it because of their kids. If you're in one of those first two groups, you're probably going to come away satisfied. If you're in the third group, prepare for a pleasant surprise. This is a fun movie, even if you don't know (or care) all that much about Pokemon.
Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is a 21-year-old guy who ventures to Ryme City, a high-tech metropolis where humans and Pokemon live side-by-side. He's looking for his detective father, who has gone missing. Instead, he finds his dad's Pokemon partner, Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds). They start tracking down clues, with a little help from an aspiring reporter named Lucy (Kathryn Newton). Along the way, the gang crosses paths with Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), the businessman who essentially built Ryme City, and Mewtwo, the most powerful Pokemon of all.
Detective Pikachu benefits from an abundance of interesting Pokemon creatures, starting with the title character. As voiced by Reynolds, Pikachu is a fountain of one-liners, many of which are very funny. Other Pokemon are similarly amusing to behold. Lucy has one called Psyduck, who explodes when he gets too stressed. (It's a witty spoof of Type-A personalities.) Another known as Mr. Mime provides the film with its comic highlight, as Tim tries to interrogate him via pantomime. There are Pokemon packed into just about every shot here, so discovering who they are and what they can do provides a level of entertainment.
The action scenes are well-done. One finds our heroes in a mountainy region that continually re-calibrates its geography. The manner in which that sequence is handled is clever. And of course, you get a climactic showdown between Pikachu and Mewtwo. It makes good use of height as the Pokemon duel each other mid-air, their individual powers employed in various ways.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu certainly has a few things that don't work quite as well. The mystery is pretty dull, as it relies on an age-old cliché about who the villain is and what he's trying to accomplish. Figuring out the big plot twist is also ridiculously easy. (I had it less than 20 minutes into the movie). No real surprises exist within the story. Then there's poor Ken Watanabe, who is utterly wasted in a supporting role as a lieutenant in Ryme City's police department. Why hire such a great actor, then give him almost nothing to do?
If you can get past those issues, you can still have a good time. Reynolds is hilarious, Smith and Newton are likable, and the Pokemon are cool. Detective Pikachu gives fans what they want, yet is accessible enough for non-fans to derive some pleasure from, too.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu will be released on 4K UHD combo pack, Blu-ray combo pack, and DVD on August 6. A complimentary copy of the Blu-ray was provided by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment for the purposes of this review.
The supplementary materials on the disc are just as fun as the feature itself. They start off with “Detective Mode.” With this option selected, you watch the movie with added content, such as pop-up trivia or picture-in-picture behind-the-scenes footage, appearing at appropriate times. It's a cool way of getting scene-specific information about the film in the moment.
An alternate opening shows Tim working his dead-end job at an insurance company, and “My Pokemon Adventure” brings us stars Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton talking about their own childhood Pokemon obsessions. It's clear they have a lot of passion for being part of a Pokemon project.
The actors return to host “Creating the World of Detective Pikachu,” a four-part making-of documentary. Here, you'll get details on the visualization of Ryme City (including how director Rob Letterman shot on film to get the noir look he wanted), the staging of the action sequences, the CGI used to make the various Pokemon, and more. It gives a nice overview of how the movie was made, as well as the care that went into remaining faithful to the Pokemon brand.
“Mr. Mime's Audio Commentary” is basically just the scene featuring the aforementioned character, along with a brief introduction. Being a mime, he doesn't speak, so there's no actual commentary. This is a long way to go for a not-particularly-funny joke. Much better is “Ryan Reynolds – Outside the Actor's Studio,” a comical bit in which Reynolds pretends to have gone full Method in playing Pikachu. Wife Blake Lively puts in an appearance.
Finally, there's a music video for the theme song, “Carry On,” by Rita Ora and Kygo.
The Pokemon Detective Pikachu Blu-ray looks and sounds great, and the bonus goodies are very entertaining. All in all, this is a strong package.
out of four
Pokemon Detective Pikachu is rated PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, and thematic elements. The running time is 1 hour and 44 minutes.