By: Kevin Jordan
Go or something-or-other.
I know next to nothing about Pokemon. I know it is a card game where the cards feature different creatures, which I assume are called Pokemons. I am not going to Google this, but feel free to email Goat with your complaints about me being stupid. Anyway, players make decks of creatures to do battle with other players doing the same. This is the same as Magic cards, but much more cartoonish. There was also Pokemon GO, a mobile game played by everyone except me. Heading to this movie, I asked my young friend accompanying me to the screening of Pokemon: Detective Pikachu if anyone still played Pokemon GO? He said yes, but hesitantly. He is eleven years old and is exactly the person who would know, so his hesitance leads me to believe that the kids don’t play anymore. Just adult nerds.
After watching the movie, I asked my friend if the movie matched Pokemon lore or the card game or whatever. He said no. Period. No hesitation, which leads me to believe the filmmakers may get a lot of angry, adult Pokemon nerds complaining about how the movie didn’t follow something-or-other. But it did have that ball thing from Pokemon GO, as well as a ton of Pokemons roaming around on screen, so maybe the nerds will overlook something-or-other.
Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) does not have a Pokemon. Apparently, he needs one. We don’t know why – and no explanation is ever given – but everyone in the beginning of the movie comments on Tim’s lack of cuddly companion (my friend confirmed that this human-Pokemon pairing is not a thing outside of the movie). This is soon remedied when Justice meets Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), a yellow Pokemon with a lightning bolt-shaped tail. However, Tim isn’t looking to have a Pokemon, it just sort of happens. Pikachu is trying to find out what happened to his human, Tim’s dad, when they discover each other in Tim’s dad’s office. As far as Tim knows, his father was killed in a car crash, but Pikachu believes Tim’s father is still alive. Since Tim’s father was a detective, Pikachu believes himself a detective as well and Tim and Pikachu embark on a quest to find Tim’s father. Sounds just like the card game, right?
If you were hoping for some Pokemon battles a la the card game, don’t hold your breath. The movie explains to us that battles have been banned in Ryme City (the setting of the movie). You know that preview you saw with Pokemon fighting a dragon in a cage-match? Save for the climax featuring Pikachu fighting a flying Pokemon lizard-y-thing, that one cage-match is the entirety of the Pokemon battles. Sorry Poke-nerds. I was sad too.
That doesn’t mean the movie wasn’t fun. In case you didn’t notice, Ryan Reynolds voices Pikachu. As fun as it might have been to get an R-rated Pokemon movie featuring a foul-mouthed stuffed animal, this PG-rated version was still a hoot. Given a lot of things coming out of his mouth, PG is a bit iffy. No cuss words for folks who think their children have never heard the words shit or ass before, but a lot of double entendres aimed at adults.
(Side note: I realize we had an R-rated stuffed animal in Ted, but Seth MacFarlane sucks.)
Justice does a great job as well. He brings an earnestness that hits just the right tones. Not too adolescent, but definitely not too adult. He definitely does not carry this movie, but he is a great sidekick to Pikachu, even if that is somewhat unintentional (he really is the protagonist of the film, despite the film always cocking its head toward Pikachu). I cannot say the same for Kathryn Newton, playing a young wannabe journalist, who does come off far too juvenile and pretty unlikable. The film tries to develop her as a love interest for Tim, but you’re kind of rooting for Pikachu to accidentally electrocute her. Finally, we have Bill Nighy playing a corporate philanthropist who created Ryme City and Ken Watanabe playing a police Lieutenant who looked like he was constantly hung over. These are two very good actors clearly not giving a shit, but in different ways. For all of Watanabe’s apparent nonchalance is an equal amount of ham from Nighy. Luckily, the two of them combine for a small amount of screen time, allowing Reynolds and Smith to shine.
The reason I enjoyed the film is because I was able to disregard a large amount of nonsense being thrown at us. That is going to happen when eight different writers are tasked with writing a story and screenplay. It would have been nice to get an explanation for what roles the Pokemons actually perform in the relationships or if Pokemons are more than just apparent pets, among many other questions. Most importantly, if the reason for capturing Pokemons (which is what they do to pair up) is for battling and battling has been banned, why anyone still captures them? Nabbing them as part of an underground fighting ring makes sense, but literally everyone in the film has a Pokemon. Rather than dwell on those things or be really annoyed at Newton, I sat back and enjoyed the near-constant stream of comedy coming from Reynolds, as well as a beautifully rendered city and characters. I get that film-snobs hate CGI, but the texturing and seamless integration in a movie like Pokemon drowns them out. You don’t even have to be a Pokemon nerd to enjoy this kids’ film, even if only at a surface level. Or something-or-other.
Rating: Ask for two dollars back. It was fun, but eight writers? Really?