I Wanna Be the Very Best - Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (REVIEW)
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
A movie that I could never imagine in my wildest dreams hit theaters, for my Pokemon loving heart this one holds a very special place in said heart. When I was younger, I used to wish I was a Pokémon trainer, ever since I played my first game in the series Pokémon Red. Detective Pikachu realizes a world many kids have only ever imagined… for that reason alone this film is a freaking win. But beyond the nostalgia… there is so much more here.
Detective Pikachu follows Tim, played by Justice Smith, a young man working to unravel the mystery behind his estranged father’s disappearance. On the road to get there, he encounters his father’s amnesiac Pokémon partner, a Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds, who just so happens to be able to talk to him… and only him. Like all great stories, what starts as a simple missing person tale evolves to something much larger with sinister implications. Joining Tim is plucky reporter Lucy Stevens (played by Kathryn Newton) and her Psyduck partner, who just so happens to be investigating the mysterious disappearance of Tim’s father. Rounding out the cast is Bill Nighy as Howard Clifford, Chris Geere as Howard’s son Roger, and Ken Watanabe as Lieutenant Hide Yoshida.
What was initially one of my biggest worries jumping into this was the design of the Pokémon. The recent reveal and subsequent backlash of the Sonic the Hedgehog character design proves that sometimes deviating so much from the source material doesn’t generally work out well for studios. I must say that after watching the movie, the CGI Pokémon work well in this world. They retained much of what made them so lovable in the first place, the core designs of the Pokémon were maintained while further fleshing them out with realistic fur, feathers, and scales. If you grew up watching the anime or playing the games, these Pokémon are instantly recognizable. Nothing clashed, and while I’m still not 100% on board with a fuzzy Jigglypuff… everything else works.
While the story is set in a Pokémon world, the setting feels like a world unlike our own. While there were several chances to give in to blatant fan service, I like that they stayed the course and rarely deviated from the mystery narrative of Detective Pikachu’s story. This isn’t a story about a boy that wants to “be the very best, like no-one ever was,” it’s a story about a son looking to find answers. There’s a lot of heart here, in one scene that was particularly heart-wrenching we had Tim crying with Pikachu consoling him. I found that these scenes made the movie for me, much like the first Pokémon movie they released in theaters… its the scenes with heart that hit the audience the best.
Detective Pikachu isn’t without its flaws though, a slightly uneven pacing in the second act with a slow wind-up in the first act make this a balance between telling the story fully or giving the audience all the Pokémon goodness their little hearts can handle. While this was Tim’s story, I felt like Lucy was wasted throughout most of the picture. Aside from her Psyduck offering comedic relief, Lucy felt more like set dressing than a fully fleshed out character. Her motivations felt questionable, I know she fits into the “plucky reporter” archetype fairly well… I just wish she had more of a reason to find Tim’s dad other than chasing down the next big scoop.
At the end of the day, what matters the most is if I had fun… and I did have a blast watching this. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is an absolute delight for kids of all ages. Whether you are the fan who just got into Pokémon, or you’re the fan that has loved this world all your life and now you are taking your own kids to see it. It’s generational, that’s got to be worth something right? I’m calling it… and while the competition isn’t all all fierce, this movie is the best video game movie ever.
Despite some flaws, hecka fun!