Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) does not want to be a Pokemon trainer. He abandoned the dream as a boy, as well it seems as his relationship with his father. But his father has been tragically killed and Tim must now travel to the sprawling Rhyme City, where pokemon and humans live side by side. Soon he meets his father’s Pokemon partner, Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) and seems to be able to understand what he is saying. Together, they set off to solve the mystery.
The films greatest asset is its world. Pitched somewhere between Disney’s zootropolis and Blade Runner’s LA, it’s a colorful, detailed and interesting society. The Pokemon are integrated into, and utilised by, the city in creative ways. There’s the multi-limbed machamp directing traffic, the water spewing squirtles putting out fires and Ludicolo is a helpful, crazy-eyed bartender. Truly a magical world.
The story however is less magical. The mystery unfolds some what perfunctorily and the pacing is such that we rarely get real moments between characters. Reynold’s irreverent humour drives a wedge between the two characters and detracts from the relationship forming between them. There are some impressive action set-pieces, but there’s not the energy to drive the narrative forward.
The Pokemon present an interesting challenge to the production. The furry Pokemon are straightforward enough, and Pikachu is suitably adorable. The fleshy Pokemon, however, are trickier. Make them too lifelike and they become unsettling. The team therefore opted to make them all look very rubbery. It’s a little jarring, especially when it comes to characters like MewTwo who has prolonged screen time with human actors.
Detective Pikachu has it’s heart in the right place and offers many treats for Pokemon fans, but it falls short of a fulfilling narrative and is lacking in real comedy and character moments. A bright, fun cartoon show but it seems Hollywood is still struggling to find the heart behind Pokemon.