Pokémon Detective Pikachu

 

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A hodgepodge of recycled ideas battles for screen time in a film noir smorgasbord for 

infantile filmgoers starved of CGI.

 
Pokémon Detective Pikachu

Justice Smith with his ace pet detective

 

Pokémon Detective Pikachu is the pop-cultural equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet. It is set in Ryme City, a futuristic metropolis that combines elements of the US, London and Japan and is home to both Homo sapiens and creatures of every imaginable stripe. In this parallel universe, drawn from the Japanese franchise, every human would seem to have a Pokémon partner, a fantastical being of infinite variety and with its own individual skill set. Our hero, a 21-year-old insurance appraiser called Tim Goodman (an uncharismatic Justice Smith), has his own unique gift: he can understand what his father’s Pokémon partner, Pikachu, is saying. This is a handy device, as it allows Ryan Reynolds – as the voice of Pikachu – to provide a comic riff on every ludicrous situation that Tim gets into. Tim is in Ryme City to look for his father, a detective investigating the unscrupulous side of Clifford Enterprises, a corporation run by a wheelchair-bound megalomaniac played by Bill Nighy. But Tim’s father has been killed in a car crash, although Pikachu is not convinced that his erstwhile partner is really dead. And thereby hangs a crooked tale, combining elements of film noir, Doctor Dolittle and that ghastly Melissa McCarthy Muppet ‘comedy’ The Happytime Murders (2018).

 

Detective Pikachu is a brand of Pokémon known for its crooked tail and large pleading eyes, emanating an ‘adorable’ presence which it uses to win over its human trainers. As Pikachu, the sardonic Reynolds provides a nice counterpoint to his character’s winsomeness, the only element that makes the film remotely engaging. Otherwise, these stock characters and Pokémons inhabit a world that is largely hard to comprehend. Even the title should prove nonsensical to anyone other than the film’s intended fan base. Yet the premise is not without potential. With their budget of $150 million, the filmmakers could have conjured up an extraordinary array of wondrous beings, but the Pokémons fail to register in any meaningful way. There’s a fire-breathing dragon here, a horde of Gremlin-like nasties there, and a horrible thing with a glutinous tongue almost as large as its own body. The best Pokémon is an ungainly beast that can only communicate in mime – called, prosaically, Mr Mime – but he is given little screen time. What the film really lacks, though, is a strong narrative focus – and empathetic characters. Without either, it ends up as a ramshackle yarn in which the incredible is rendered mundane and pointless.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Rita Ora, Karan Soni, Josette Simon, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy.

 

Dir Rob Letterman, Pro Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Hidenaga Katakami and Don McGowan, Screenplay Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman and Derek Connolly, Ph John Mathieson, Pro Des Nigel Phelps, Ed Mark Sanger and James Thomas, Music Henry Jackman, Costumes Suzie Harman.

 

Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures/The Pokémon Company-Warner Bros.

104 mins. Japan/USA/Canada. 2019. Rel: 10 May 2019. Cert. PG.