Movie News & Reviews

‘Detective Pikachu’ will appeal to the Pokemon in you ... if you have any

Kathryn Newton and Justice Smith in “Pokemon Detective Pikachu.” (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Kathryn Newton and Justice Smith in “Pokemon Detective Pikachu.” (Warner Bros. Pictures) TNS

Like Pokemon?

If your answer is “yes,” then you’ll find a lot to like in “Pokemon Detective Pikachu.”

A whole lot.

The human characters in the movie are literally up to their keisters in Poke-critters — the Bulbasaurs, Jigglypuffs, Cubones, Ludicolos, Lickitungs and ever so many more — scampering, skittering, swarming, crawling, leaping and flying about in dizzying profusion.

This is a very busy picture, full of frantic activity, and cluttered-looking to the point where the eye often doesn’t quite know where to focus.

“Detective Pikachu” parts company with the many Japanese-produced Pokemon movies, TV shows and other forms of 2-D illustrated anime and video-game imagery that have preceded it in that it mixes CG/3-D-animated characters with live-action people.

In keeping with the detective theme, director Rob Letterman goes for a quasi film noir visual quality, but his attempt to achieve a shadowy ambiance winds up merely looking sludgy.

The Pokemon here coexist with humans in the teeming streets of their home burg of Ryme City in a manner reminiscent of Toontown in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

On those overly busy byways a twentysomething fellow named Tim (Justice Smith) is seeking to solve the mystery of the fate of his father, apparently killed in a car crash, though his body remains missing. Assisting in the effort is the Pokemon of the title, Detective Pikachu: bright yellow, pint-sized, fuzzy, cuddly, highly caffeinated and mile-a-minute mouthy. The mouthiness is courtesy of Ryan Reynolds, who seems to be channeling Deadpool with his snark, his wisecracks and his irreverence. Reynolds’ work is the best thing in the movie (a platoon of credited screenwriters including director Letterman is the source of his snark).

Thanks to inhaling a mind-altering purple gas, Tim suddenly finds himself able to understand Pikachu’s Poke-speak, which most humans only hear as squeaks, gurgles and chirps. Their back-and-forth banter is the source of most of the humor.

Their hunt for clues, abetted by a perky wannabe TV news reporter played by Kathryn Newton, leads them to a secret research facility where satanic DNA experiments are being conducted to meld Pokemon creatures with humans to create super beings … and well, the expected sci-fi foofaraw attends those sorts of shenanigans.

Overlong set-piece action scenes pitched in the key of chaos, full of running and screaming and a whole lot of falling down, ultimately turn “Pikachu” into a wearying slog.

‘Pokemon Detective Pikachu’

2 stars

Cast: featuring the voice of Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Ken Watanabe, and Bill Nighy

Director: Rob Letterman

Running time: 1:40

Rated: PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor and thematic elements.

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