Review: Pokémon Detective Pikachu

It’s not often that I get to write something here on this blog that I care deeply about. So please, forgive me if I get too…emotional……
<<Ok, temper those feelings man or people will think you’re weird>>…but seriously everyone, I was so excited to see this movie! Purchased my Friday night ticket like three weeks ago. My number one for 2019. I followed the production just a little bit (okay, a lotta bit) but then got even more hyped when I saw the first trailer, which was not too long before I started this blog. Hence this movie topping my “Looking Forward To 2019!” list (go back to the beginning and read that one if you want, I think it’s a pretty good list). I will clear the air though and say that I’m not some crazed super-fan, I just really enjoy some of the things that Pokémon has to offer. I’ll get to a brief non-spoiler review of the movie, but first I want to broaden the scope here for those of you who are knew to this whole Pikachu thing.
Pokémon, or “Pocket Monsters,” started in Japan with a guy named Satoshi Tajiri. He and some friends worked tirelessly for years to develop two Gameboy games: Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. That was 1996. After the games started gaining popularity, a trading card game was created. Then an anime tv show. Then about 6,400 other things branded “Pokémon” over the next 23 years. I’m cutting that history short because after about the 3rd Generation of Pokémon, the 4th season of the anime show, and the 5th Gameboy game…I pretty much had everything I needed, and stopped caring about what other Pokémon things were being assembly-lined into culture. I was a happy kid. It wasn’t until Pokémon Go was released for my smart phone 3 years ago that I once again felt the need to catch ’em all! And then just as my heart began growing cold toward the game, this movie was announced, and my childhood spirit was re-ignited. I will say that as a fan, I kinda enjoyed the movie. And as a movie-review-guy, it was just okay.
Some things I liked about the movie: 1) The Pokémon looked amazing. Most had some noticeable variations to their playing card pictures and anime versions, but they more resembled what I think Pokémon would actually look like if they lived among us. And although they were all CGI in the movie, the interactions with people were pretty life-like too. 2) Ryan Reynolds. Maybe it’s just his voice? Because even without his face, I love the guy. He really has taken a few extra steps into the spotlight recently, with Deadpool hitting it off and having kids with Blake Lively and buying a gin company (oh yeah, true story!). Anyway, he is a fantastic sidekick in this movie. He brings the wit and memorable one-liners that I have come to expect and even started to think are maybe just a part of who he is as a person? Can one person be that witty? 3) This movie swings for the fences. Does it fully connect? I’ll let you decide when you see it, but I tend to lean towards no. But it definitely goes bonkers with a third act, and even before that there is a clear distinction between the mostly-coherent plot and tone of this movie and those that have come before it.
Overall, I think the movie struggled in several ways. There is not a lot of world building, and even the location is mostly one city. No Pokémon exploration or adventure. And very little Pokémon battling (there was a Gengar vs. Blastoise scene that was super dope and I wanted more of it). The wonder of the anime show and video games was mostly missing, and that was a let-down for me as a fan. For much of the movie, it’s just a mystery movie with Pokémon in it. It resembles a typical popcorn, summer movie and I was hoping for something more unique and special to pull in new fans to the expansive Pokémon world. The main target audience is obviously kids, and so as painful as it is to watch the co-lead character, Tim, (Justice Smith) basically walk every other kid in the theatre through what must happen next in most of his dialogue, I understand why it’s there. He does a pretty good job acting in the role though and personifies what it looks like for someone to put their childhood away and grow up. In the movie, he’s looking for his missing dad, and that leads him back into the world of his youth. Like I said previously, I’m just glad they swung for the fences with this one.
So those are my thoughts on Pokémon Detective Pikachu! I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed because I think a part of me expected the movie to fall a little short (I’m also a realistic fan), but I hope that there are still some who walk out of the theatre with a new appreciation. And if not, I am plenty alright with the fact that I sat next to a dad and his Pokémon-crazed son who talked throughout the entire movie and pointed out every single Pokémon that appeared on screen with the same passion that I once had. Moreover, he correctly guessed how the movie would end (out loud) at about the same time the realization occurred to me. So maybe there is hope for movie fans too 🙂 Thanks for reading, and I’ll try to get another streaming review up this week as we prepare to dive straight into summer movie season from here on out. Cheers!

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