Pokémon Detective Pikachu, the first live-action Pokémon film, is pretty much what one would expect from a video game inspired adaptation. Set in a world where Pokémon, creatures of various size and powers, live in harmony with humans, the film does not dive too deeply into the logistics of such an environment. All one needs to know is that Ryme City media mogul Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), who has a disability and runs the CNM news empire with his son Roger (Chris Geere), discovered the humanity of Pokémons while on a trip years ago. Now the Pokémon follow the humans who “captured” them everywhere (e.g. offices, trains, night clubs, etc.) like cute and volatile services dogs.
The only one who does not seem to have a Pokémon companion is lowly insurance salesman, Tim Goodman (Justice Smith). Despite wanting to be a Pokémon trainer as a child, his dreams were dashed at the age of 11 when his mother died. Now 21-years-old, Goodman must travel to Ryme City to confront the death of his estranged father. According to Detective Hideo Yoshida (Ken Watanabe), the death is ruled an unfortunate accident. However, when Tim discovers that his dad’s Pokémon partner Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) is still alive, and that he can understand what the creature is saying, he slowly begins to question the validity of the circumstances surrounding the night in question.
Teaming up with plucky junior reporter Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) and her Pokémon Psyduck, Tim and Pikachu attempt to piece together the role an illegal drug known as R, which effects only Pokémon, plays in all of this.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu may play out like a grand mystery, complete with Pikachu wearing a Sherlock Holmes style deerstalker cap, but one will be able to figure it all out in the first 15 minutes. This is a film where the plot is merely a vessel for madcap adventure. After all this colourful work is designed to sell The Pokémon Company’s vast roster of products by filling the film with as many Pokémon as possible.
Though this means having to sit through some nonsensical plot moments, take the forest avalanche sequence for example, the film does a good job in its visual rendering of the Pokémons. Each Pokémon is given a distinct personality and Pikachu himself displays a range of facial emotions that make him feel like a fully realized character.
The film succeeds where other video game adaptation fail thanks to its humour. As he displayed in his previous film Goosebumps, director Rob Letterman knows how to infuse plenty of laughs into his action sequences. More importantly, Letterman’s moments of levity also help to sell the emotional beats in the film. Effectively touching on the dangers of being blinded by personal passions, the film shows the damaging effects of fathers who obsess over their work and ignore their sons in the process.
Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a fun romp that will delight young kids and Pokémon fans. However, those seeking more substance in their films might want to look elsewhere.