Pikachu gets his sleuth on in Pokémon Detective Pikachu, with Ryan ‘Deadpool’ Reynolds giving him voice. So, what’s it like, and can it be deciphered by anybody who doesn’t know their Jigglypuff from their Wigglytuff?
Ace detective Harry Goodman has gone missing, and his son Tim (Justice Smith) takes it upon himself to work out just what happened. He teams with a deerstalker-donning Pikachu that he can actually understand – the rest of the world just hears him say “Pika! Pika!” – and who happened to be Harry’s Poké-partner. This is a fortuitous arrangement when – unlike pretty much everybody – Tim didn’t already have one of his own.
The pair scour the neon-drenched Ryme City – where humans and Pokémon co-exist peacefully – with help from TV reporter intern Lucy (and her explosive Psyduck), looking for clues. They soon have many questions – what has Mewtwo been up to, what of the car crash that appeared to have taken Harry’s life, what’s this ‘R’ stuff all about and what does Ryme City founder Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) have to do with it all?
While there have been many Pokémon movies through the years, this is the first one pitching at all ages, helped in no end by the fact that Pikachu can actually speak, and that his speaking is done by Ryan Reynolds in a kind of PG-rated, wise-cracking Deadpool style that oozes charm. If not for him, Pokémon Detective Pikachu would likely be a much less appealing prospect. It’s also fair to say that this film has a somewhat larger budget than previous, fully-animated offerings, which doesn’t hurt.
The blend of live action and CGI makes for an incredible spectacle, if not an often alarmingly overwhelming one as characters flit here, there and everywhere in what can seem like barely controlled chaos. If you’re a Poké-spotter then you’re going to be a very busy one. Ultimately, with its classic detective story fused to a futuristic city vibe it really does come across much like a collision of the sublime Who Framed Roger Rabbit and sci-fi staple Blade Runner. Just featuring a less lovable, more volatile cartoon duck than even either Daffy or Donald.
Yet, despite trying to appeal to a broader audience than just Poké-fans, it is they who will get by far the most enjoyment out of this, with lay types likely to spend much time with a cartoon question mark above their heads, should such things actually appear in the real world.
Being only nominally Poké-literate, thanks mainly to an obsessed nephew, we managed to follow the gist of what was going on, and would rate the experience a solid three out of five. Said nephew had a ball with an almost perma-grin from ear-to-ear broken only once or twice by brief restless periods. Seven-year-olds, right? He decided that it warrants a four out of five. So, we’ve (power) split the difference…
In cinemas: May 9, 2019
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton
Directed by: Rob Letterman