‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ is Family Fun for All

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Let’s face it. If you’re not already obsessed with Pokémon, or the parent of someone who is, you’re not likely to land in a darkened theater with “Detective Pikachu” on the marquee. But for any newbies who happen to walk in, there are a few pleasures in this big budget kid friendly blockbuster.

“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” takes place in the futurist Ryme City. It’s a brightly scrubbed metropolis founded by a wealthy billionaire Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), where humans and Pokémon live freely side by side. Pokémon don’t exist to be pitted against one another, but rather more like companions and partners. Justice Smith stars as Tim, a one time wanna be Pokémon trainer whose dreams were dashed by personal tragedy. His father, a detective named Harry, has apparently perished in a car crash while investigating a big case. Harry’s old Pokémon partner, Pikachu (voice of Ryan Reynolds) comes back to the city, and Tim can mysteriously understand him … so together they team up to find Tim’s dad and solve the case.

Ryan Reynolds is the Voice of ‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

The film’s grownup pleasures are derived largely from Reynold’s non stop pop culture patter, which proceeds at a Deadpool-like pace without the “R” rating. Reynolds is a better actor than he is often given credit for, and he has admirably grown beyond his early Van-Wilder-frat-boy schtick. Pikachu’s CGI makeover is appropriately adorable, making it hard for even non fans to resist. Justice Smith proves to have capable comic timing as well.

The plot is standard issue Hollywood-by-the-numbers blockbuster stuff with twists and turns even the youngest viewers will be able to spot. Could the wealthy billionaire be not quite the benevolent benefactor he seems to be, or is this a case of his neglected son trying to tarnish daddy’s legacy right under his nose? It doesn’t take a fifth grader to figure that out.

The plot itself raises plenty of questions for inquisitive minded youngsters, and grownups who may actually be paying attention. But director Rob Letterman keeps things moving, whether the subsequent scenes make a lick of sense or not. There are plenty of chases, battles, and a Pokémon related earthquake that aims for Roland Emmerich-style disaster and halfway succeeds. But in the end it’s the Pokémon who are the stars for the target audience.

Tim (Justice Smith) and the Title Character in ‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Also, for the Pokémon-obsessed children like my seven-yea-old twins, the film might as well have been Iron Man or Captain America. They talked about it for weeks before the screening, and they were positively giddy with excitement at seeing their favorite Pokémon come to life in this CGI and live action hybrid. For them, Detective Pikachu was, in a word, “Awesome.” For parents like me, at least I didn’t want to stick knitting needles in my eyes to stop the nonstop visual assault … at least that’s something.

“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” opens everywhere on May 10th in 3D, IMAX. RPX and regular screenings. See local listings for format theaters and show times. Featuring Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Suki Waterhouse, Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy. Screenplay by Rob Letterman, Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit and Derek Connolly. Directed by Rob Letterman. Rated “PG

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters


© 2019 Spike Walters, HollywoodChicago.com

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