Guest review written by Dave Curtis (@HelloDaveCurtis)
Let it be known that 2019 gave birth to one of the most bizarre and truly odd pieces of casting in recent cinematic history. Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu. For those that aren’t aware of what or who Pikachu is then surely they have had been living under a rock for the past 20 years. Pikachu is the most famous of all Pokémon. A cute looking hamster creature that has the power to generate a large amount of electric from its furry body. Pokémon have been a huge hit for some time all over the world and I am amazed that it took this long for a live action version of the popular cartoon and game to be made. I suppose the global success of Pokémon Go had something to do with it. I just never imagined that this is the angle that they would go with.
Detective Pikachu is loosely based on the computer game with the same name and it centres around Tim (Justice Smith) finding out that his estranged Dad Harry has died in mysteries circumstances in Ryme City. A city where humans and Pokémon coexist. It’s there he bumps into his Dads caffeine addicted Pokémon partner Pikachu. Together they must piece together the clues to discover what happened to Harry. Did I mention that only Tim can understand Pikachu and he sounds just like Ryan Reynolds. (told you it was strange).
If you are a hardcore fan and were worried that you won’t see many types of Pokémon, then breathe easy. It is packed full of all of your favourite types (more than I can name). The world the film creates is full of detail and does a great job in setting the Pokémon in reality. In fact so much so it is easy to get caught up in it all and forget that Ryme City is a made-up place. Just imagine Tokyo crossed with London and you be would be half way there
The most positive thing about Detective Pikachu is that it dares to be different. The casting of Reynolds may seem to be strange at first but any worries quickly melt away. It is him that elevates the whole film. That and the partnership with Smith. This being Smith’s first real leading role helps ground a film which could come off childish and unreal. Without their chemistry this would a true mess of a film.
Die hard fans will maybe disappointed that it doesn’t really delve into Pokemon battles and what the point to the whole ‘Gotta catch them all’ thing is about. It lightly passes over the collecting side of things and really doesn’t land of what actually Pokemon really are.
Sadly by the final act it gets very predictable and it loses its sense of fun and mystery that served it so well at the beginning. Especially when it comes to the Pokémon themselves. The film works best when Pikachu is at the forefront. The film also sometimes has problems with Its tone, never adult enough and often to dark and scary for young children. It is a balancing act which it simply can’t quite work out. A lot of the humour (Reynolds wit) will simply pass the younger audience by. The visual effects are also flawless for 90% of the run time, don’t be surprised come award season this to be in the mix.
As much fun as it is, it does make odd choices with the storyline and characters. None of the secondary characters are fleshed out in any real detail (Bill Nighy and Kathryn Newton in particular) and the end just doesn’t make any real impact. It is left to the CGI creatures to carry the weight of the film and with a plot this weak sometimes that is a struggle.
As far as being a computer game adaptation goes (which performed notoriously poorly at the box office), this could be the one that breaks the mould. Repeat viewings will offer the viewer more opportunities to spot a Pokemon they have missed
Detective Pikachu is a different film than expected and thanks to its leading Pokemon it will capture the hearts to whoever watches it. It was a brave decision to have Reynolds voice Pikachu whose vocabulary normally consists of two words “Pika and Pika”, but thanks to some wonderfully bizarre dialogue it lands on the right side of entertaining
In short Detective Pikachu is a fun, charming movie which has enough heart about it to cement it as one of the best video game adaptations to date. Sadly as an everyday