Movie review

Like Pokémon?

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

A whole lot.

The human characters in the movie are literally up to their keisters in Poké-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 Pokémon movies, TV shows and other forms of 2D illustrated anime and video-game imagery that have preceded it in that it mixes computer-generated/3D-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 ambience winds up merely looking sludgy.

The Pokémon 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 20-something 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 unfound. Assisting in the effort is the Pokémon 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 Poké-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 (Kathryn Newton), leads them to a secret research facility where satanic DNA experiments are being conducted to meld Pokémon 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,” with Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy and the voice of Ryan Reynolds. Directed by Rob Letterman, from a screenplay by Letterman, Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit and Derek Connolly. 100 minutes. Rated PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor and thematic elements. Opens May 10 at multiple theaters.