So, what do you get if you mash together Pokémon, Dr. Dolittle, and a buddy cop film? You get what is probably one of the most ridiculous premises for a movie I’ve ever seen. (For a theatrical release, anyway; Syfy B-movies get way worse.) When I first saw the title, Detective Pikachu (or technically Pokémon Detective Pikachu; it’s an anime thing), I thought it was insane.
Then, I saw the trailer, and it actually looked good.
Of course, trailers lie all the time, and a good trailer can still mean a really bad movie.
But then the reviews were good, too.
I was never into Pokémon as a kid—didn’t play the game, didn’t trade the cards. I saw a few episodes of the cartoon in passing, but even then, most of my knowledge of the franchise comes from Generation I. I don’t play Pokémon Go, either. But this movie looked so crazy that I just had to see it, and…
It was decent. I had fun with it, but the biggest failing of this movie is that it took me at least halfway through to be sold on it. If it hadn’t, I would have rated it higher, but even so, it’s still worth seeing.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5.
So, what’s going on here? Tim Goodman is a small-town kid who is a failed Pokémon trainer (a social stigma in the Pokémon world). He learns that his father, Harry, a famous detective, has been killed in a car crash. So, he goes to his father’s apartment in Ryme City, where he meets a talking Pikachu (Pokémon are animals and are not supposed to be able to talk) who insists Harry is still alive despite not remembering what happened, and they head off to try to find him.
My first problem with the movie was that the first half hour felt too video gamey. By that I mean the pacing felt like video game-style exposition. I’m not sure if I can really define that. A little too clean-cut, maybe—jumping straight between conversations that are clearly meant to do nothing but establish the facts the viewer needs to know about the characters and the story. And I know that sounds like something good stories are supposed to do, and it is, but there was just something that felt perfunctory about it.
The movie picks up from there, though, even though it seems a little too easy for Tim and Pikachu to find out what they need to know. My biggest problem was that they didn’t explore the ideas at all as well as they could have. The Torterra garden, for example. They could have done a lot more with that. In fact, there should have been some more consequences to that scene, but they pretty much just sit there. They do one thing that’s important to the plot that could have been done more easily by the Greninja fight and would have left more time for sleuthing.
Basically, so-so screenwriting. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t live up to its zany premise. Tim couldn’t even talk to other Pokémon besides Pikachu, although this was already implied by the trailers and makes sense in retrospect. Maybe it’s because I’m not really a Pokémon fan, but that’s my take on it.