Director: Rob Letterman
Reviewed by Tom Wade (@LevelUpTom)
It was in November 1999 that I got my first ever detention at school. Caught skipping a PE lesson to play a friends copy of Pokémon Red in the school toilets, it was a risk worth taking as I was catapulted into a world of 8-bit graphics and 150 Pokémon to capture (don’t worry I got the Mew at a trading event a few months later to take me to 151). I was obsessed with Pokémon for years after. I wanted to be the very best, like no one ever was, to catch them was my real test, to train them was my cause.
Skip forward 20 years and I find myself asking my wife for permission to escape fatherhood for a few hours to see my second Pokémon film at the cinema (we won’t talk about Pokémon: The First Movie - some memories are not worth revisiting). It was a risk worth taking though as Detective Pikachu is not only the best videogame adaptation of all time, it’s a great film in its own right.
Detective Pikachu seems like a strange concept for a live action Pokémon film at first. Rather than go down the ‘young person travels the world training to be the Pokémon master’ route that many expected it to, Detective Pikachu instead takes inspiration from a lesser known handheld spin-off game. It was, however, a moment of pure inspiration to approach a Pokémon film from such a creative starting point, and Detective Pikachu ends up being the best video game adaptation yet seen on the big screen. It’s worth saying though that if you don’t know your Psyduck from your Jigglypuff this might be an experience you’re not quite ready for yet.
Those expecting a Game of Thrones complex plot would do well to remember that this is a) primarily a children’s film and b) a film about a talking Pikachu who is a detective. Taking more than just a sprinkling of inspiration from the classic ‘Who Framed Rodger Rabbit’, our plot sees the likeable Justice Smith as Tim Goodman, the estranged son of a detective who has recently been mysteriously killed in a car accident while on a secret case. Tim travels to his father’s city (a place where Pokémon and humans live side by side) to investigate further and it’s here that he meets his dad’s Pikachu Pokémon partner. Somehow Tim is able to understand Pikachu and together they set out to find out the details surrounding his father's death.
It has been well publicised that Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) is the voice of Pikachu, and while his quick wisecracks may not be for everyone’s taste, this is as close to a PG Deadpool that we are likely to see on screen. Reynolds’ Pikachu is thankfully a delight and considering the most Pikachu has said previously on screen is... ‘Pikachu’, his wit and sarcasm are welcome features. Fans will almost certainly overlook Detective Pikachu’s shortcomings because it hits so many nostalgia buttons correctly. The soundtrack hints at and includes themes from Pokémon games over the years whilst the actual Pokémon designs are really impressive. The film is also really funny. Young and old will appreciate the jokes along the way and the film isn’t afraid to make fun of the absurdity of it all. It’s an impressive feat to strike such a balanced tone and one wholly unexpected in a Pokémon film.
There are some pacing issues and the final quarter of the film might be one step too many into the bizarre for some, but overall Detective Pikachu is an unexpected triumph. So what are you waiting for? Grab your Pokédex from Professor Oak and head off to your nearest Pokémon Gym immediately.
Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:
(4 - You gotta catch em’ all)
Awesomeness öööö – Jurassic Pokemon Park
Laughs ööö – Reynolds is funny
Horror ö – Some Pokeviolence
Spiritual Enlightenment ööö - Soul mates forever