Featuring some truly stunning visuals and hitting the nostalgia button hard, ‘Detective Pikachu’ seems at odds with itself when it comes to the script and story. It could have been worse but should have been better…
Seeing the reception to the recent Sonic the Hedgehog trailer ramped up my fear of what Detective Pikachu could be. The former movie has been ridiculed for its terrible visual effects and for having some bizarre performances at the center of it, and I figured “if this is one video game favorite of mine, what will the other look like?” Thankfully, I’m pleased to say that Detective Pikachu is not anything close to failure. It might have been more entertaining if it were a failure, too.
Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) grew up wanting to be a Pokémon trainer but eventually settled on a life with less excitement to it. When he is forced to leave his small town to journey to Ryme City in order to settle the affairs of his recently deceased father, he begins to rediscover his love of Pokémon. Harry Goodman was an RCPD detective, recently dying in the line of duty. Thankfully his partner, Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) survived, and together they team up with some other humans and Pokémon to discover a conspiracy that may go to the core of Ryme City.
Yet by the end of the relatively short Detective Pikachu, this conspiracy and the character arcs of Tim and Pikachu seem… halted. It is almost as if all of the money in the movie went to the special effects budget instead of writing a cohesive script. It also doesn’t help that performance from Ryan Reynolds comes from a completely different movie, one that is not aimed at the same family-friendly tone of the rest of Detective Pikachu. Rob Letterman directs Detective Pikachu for general audiences, but every line that Reynolds feels at odds with the cuteness of Pikachu himself. Based also on the reactions of Justice Smith’s performance, it also seems as though Reynolds was improvising a lot of his own dialogue, many of his more adult jokes going uncommented upon (and sounding a lot like Deadpool rejects). It has the same effect on a long-time Pokémon fan as if Big Bird started to do a George Carlin routine.
The story also seems aimless, with plotlines abandoned after their purpose is fulfilled instead of actually providing closure. The story of Tim’s mother’s death when he was a child ends up being completely unimportant, for example, and the wants and needs of newsroom reporter Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), the second human lead of all people, feels completely sidelined by the film’s end. A character introduced with the phrase “I may be an unpaid intern, but I can smell a story” ends up not having a plot worthy of that line, and Newton remains a great actress who has been underutilized.
If your question is simply “should I see Detective Pikachu or not,” my answer is a qualified “maybe catch it soon.” I would be in line for a sequel tomorrow because I feel like it is worth just seeing the visuals. I would also go to a theme park where I could encounter a Ditto or Cubone out in the wild, which would possibly be better. Fans of Pokémon since childhood should see it when they get the chance, but it is still just another Pokémon story. You could get the same out of pulling out your Gameboy and playing Pokémon Red all over again.