Pokémon Detective Pikachu
by Hope Madden
When my son was small and we played pretend, I made believe I was Snorlax so I could lay on the couch and do nothing. Does that make me a bad parent? Well, a lazy one, anyway, but the point is, I logged countless hours on that couch watching all manner of pocket monster.
I was dragged unwillingly into the world of Pokémon. No, I am not exactly the target audience for Pokémon Detective Pikachu (read: I am in no way the target audience for this movie). But, when Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds at his Ryan Reynoldsiest) says, “Mr. Mime is the worst,” I know enough to understand that shit’s the truth.
So, there is a plot. It involves loads upon loads of daddy issues, primarily (but not exclusively) those that hang over Tim Goodman (Justice Smith). In looking for his father he falls into a mystery involving a Pikachu who is not only adorable (he admits as much himself at least twice), but is also connected to Tim. Tim can understand him.
For the uninitiated, Pokémon just repeat their own names over and over and over again in a manner that makes you want to take your own life, and yet you tolerate it because you really do love your son.
But not this Pikachu! Sure, others can only hear his cute “pika pika,” but Tim can hear actual words, and those words are telling Tim, in a humorously snarky way, that he needs to unravel this mystery and work on his interpersonal skills.
Bill Nighy shows up as an entrepreneur/philanthropist/genius. Meanwhile, Ken Watanabe languishes with bafflingly limited screen time as a detective who is, let’s be honest, not very good at his job.
Kathryn Newton is a plucky would-be investigative journalist, her trusty Psyduck in tow. (Note: Psyduck is also the worst.)
Part of the entertainment value here is the genuine fondness for the content director Rob Letterman and his army of screenwriters bring to the table. Good looking CGI, committed performances and a solidly comedic but not too ironic tone also help.
The film doesn’t shoot over the heads of the youngest fans, does embed scads of references and homages for those there for nostalgia, and throws around enough kid-friendly Reynoldsisms to entertain parents who mercifully missed out on Pokémon Gen 1 and 2.
Is it a colossal waste of Ken Watanabe’s talent? Oh God, yes. Terrible.
But honestly, otherwise I don’t have a lot of complaints.