Pokemon Detective Pikachu (2019)
Director: Rob Letterman | Runtime: 1h 44mins | Action, Adventure
Lonely insurance salesman Tim Goodman (Justin Henry) is called to Ryme City, the Pokemon city of the world, to deal with his presumed dead father’s belongings. When Tim runs into a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) that he understands, they team together to uncover the truth of his father’s disappearance.
The Pokemon franchise is no stranger to the big or small screen, with over eighteen animated films to their name and numerous television shows, they have perpetually been pumping out content since the latter part of the 1990s when they began with Indigo League (1997). Surprisingly though, it’s taken 20 plus years for the global phenomenon to reach Hollywood, and in turn become a major film franchise overseas. With the difficulty of having such a following, all tinted with a nostalgic mindset, it’s safe to say the anticipation is sky high, and with it being sky high the film unfortunately, doesn’t meet those expectations.
You could argue that the film’s unique selling point is of course the Pokemon, but unfortunately for the film that’s really all it has going for it. Each live-action performance feels like a disjointed effort to bring more reality to the fantasy story, but they seem to get lost in the charisma and general likability of the Pokemon themselves. Even in the creatureless scenes, every performance seems to working at the wrong tone, with Kathryn Newton being unbearably over the top as an enthusiastic reporter, or even Justin Henry not quite hitting the mark in any of his scenes. But the biggest shock is the lack of enthusiasm from the films proven talents, as Bill Nighy uses his universal applaud and suffers the same fate as his fellow cast members, becoming near obsolete by the presence of any Pokemon that crosses his path.
The saving grace, if there is one, is the ever charismatic Ryan Reynolds lending his unique comedic delivery, something he’s found very easy since Deadpool (2016), to the universally known and loved Pikachu. Granted the performance is a little more PG than Deadpool, but each scene leaves you waiting for what Reynolds is going to deliver next, and despite being hit and miss with the comedy, most of the time the laugh does come from the yellow fan favourite, as his amnesia leaves him marching to the beat of his own drum, carrying each scene with him as he goes. Despite most of the comedy already coming in the trailer, be sure to look out for Reynold’s Pikachu slumbering down the road singing the iconic Pokemon theme song, it may not have much levity to it but it sure is a highlight of the film.
In a strange way this film should have come closer to the similar animated/live action mix Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), but where Zemeckis has vision in abundance, the studio director-for-rent approach of Rob Letterman’s film is far from that. Where there should be charm you find only forceful quips, and the twists don’t shock but merely leave you exhausted with the lack of narrative clarity. You won’t exactly be put off by the idea of a sequel however, as in the right hands this could have been a lot fun. But unless your glasses are extremely rose-tinted and your nostalgia levels are through the roof, there isn’t much content here.