Review: ‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ is the cutest film noir ever Special

Posted May 10, 2019 by Sarah Gopaul
‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ is undeniably adorable, but it’s also an amusing mystery that everyone can enjoy regardless of their Pokémon knowledge.
A scene from  Pokémon Detective Pikachu’
A scene from 'Pokémon Detective Pikachu’
Warner Bros. Pictures
Even if they’ve never played any of the games, it’s likely most people have at least heard of Pokémon. Their cuteness turned the challenge into a global phenomenon that continues to attract and engage trainers of all ages. The phrase, “Gotta catch ‘em all,” is both a mantra and the reason the attraction has endured as long as it has with fans. It was only a matter of time before the magical creatures took over the big screen in live action and they’ve decided to do so with a sub-story of the main trainer narrative with Pokémon Detective Pikachu.
Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is a bit of a loner — to the point that he’s one of only a few people who has not paired with a Pokémon in a world in which the creatures live alongside humans. His mom passed away when he was young and he’s estranged from his father, who was recently killed in an accident. Travelling to Ryme City to handle his father’s affairs, Tim is shocked to discover a young reporter (Kathryn Newton) who believes the crash was a cover-up and a talking Pikachu (voice of Ryan Reynolds) skulking around his dad’s apartment. It turns Mr. Goodman’s death may have been staged, leaving it up to Tim and the Pikachu to find out what really happened… and potentially save the entire city from a similarly dire fate.
This movie is basically a cuter, more kid-friendly version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? There are elements of film noir, though they’re often modified to suit the contemporary narrative, including the lone wolf detective, femme fatale and obvious conspiracy with less obvious motives. However, more noticeably, the human actors perform alongside CGI animated characters and the entire experience is flawless. This seamlessness makes the imaginary world believable, which is key to drawing viewers into the murder mystery. Consequently, it appears completely normal for every person to be accompanied by some variety of Pokémon as they walk down the street, go to work or engage in any other activity.
Those familiar with the game will know Pokémon battles are a big part of it. While it would seem unconscionable to risk injury to what is essentially your pet, these battles are the equivalent of underground dogfights — except the creatures only sustain superficial injuries and are unlikely to die, making it a more acceptable (but still illegal) form of entertainment. Thus, there’s a build-up to getting to see the Pokémon, Pikachu in particular, use their special abilities, which is unique to their species and related to their ruling element. While this a highpoint in the movie, there are several more scenes in which a Pokémon use their powers for good… or evil.
The cast is well chosen as they both suit their characters’ personalities and are appealing to the audience. Smith is a straight-laced young man who, depending on the outfit, looks like an insurance salesman or Pokémon trainer. His ability to fit into both roles make the gradual transition between them appear naturally seamless. Newton has the plucky, go get ‘em attitude of a young, enthusiastic reporter still fighting the good fight — the spirit most of her superiors have lost. The recognisability of Reynolds’ voice made him seem like an odd choice to play Pikachu, but it actually works very well as he exudes both sweetness and hilarity. Appearances by veterans Bill Nighy and Ken Watanabe give the film unexpected credibility, reminding audiences this isn’t a movie just for children.
If the only reason someone wants to see this picture is to ogle at the absolutely adorable creatures sprinkled throughout it, they won’t be disappointed. But the good news is, this is actually a fun movie whether you know what a Squirtle, Mewtwo or Psyduck are or not.
Director: Rob Letterman
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton