I was a bit too old to become obsessed with the Pokémon craze that swept the country in the mid-90s, so the wonderfully bizarre “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is not a film expressly made for someone like me. While I am in no position to speak as to the quality of the fan service the movie provides, I was delightfully surprised at how engaging the tried-and-true detective story, with cute little monsters thrown in the mix, turned out to be.
Even if you are armed with zero knowledge about the Pokémon universe like me, the movie is easy to follow. You won’t know the names of all the monsters or understand the inside jokes, but nothing about this something-for-everyone movie aims to make audiences new to the party feel excluded. (The only reason I know there are references to appease the diehard fan base is due to several reactions from my mostly Millennial audience, which included well-timed, enthusiastic claps accompanied by boisterous hooting).
The story follows the basic mystery movie outline and begins when ace detective Harry Goodman goes missing after a suspicious car accident. His adult son Tim (Justice Smith) takes it upon himself to uncover what really happened to his dad, along with the assistance of Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu (voice of Ryan Reynolds). The two navigate the streets of Ryme City, a bustling metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side, and chase after clues in order to solve the case. The movie bounces along like one big video game, which provides an appropriate complement to the material.
Perhaps my lowered expectations make this movie seem better than it actually is, but the mere fact that it’s not thoroughly unwatchable is a feat in itself. This isn’t a memorable nor original story, the characters are paper thin, and the acting is mediocre at best, but none of that really matters with a movie like this because it’s fun enough for a couple of hours. The special effects are good, the plot points (no matter how predictable they are) actually make sense within the film’s constructs, and the world of pocket monsters is fully realized.
“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is better than it should be, for what it is.