The story of Detective Pikachu is 60% Zootopia, 20% Batman ’89, 10% Get Out, 5% Inception, and 5% Godzilla. It’s a lot of familiar story elements, but what’s really great is seeing all the Pokémon rendered in a real to life fashion. So if you’ve ever interacted with Pokémon, be it via card games, video games, anime, or Pokémon Go, this movie will be a treat.
Pokémon have been a part of the collective consciousness since the early 90s. And while they have never really gone away, 2016 saw Pokémon bring the world together in an unprecedented way with the release of the mobile scavenger hunt, PokémonGO. 2019 marks the first time Pokémon have been featured in a live action (ish) portrayal for movie audiences.
As the Pokémon (short for “pocket monsters”) have made their way to the silver screen, their real life portrayals have revealed secrets about the creatures that were previously unknown. Jigglypuff, for example, is fuzzy, which is surprising as it is generally known as the balloon Pokémon. All the other Pokémon are given perfect treatment by the CG animation, from Pikachu’s red cheeks to Charizard’s orange scales. It’s really nice to see a faithful adaptation of the source material (unlike Sonic-Jean Ralphio). It could be easy to lose track of the story trying to spot all the Pokémon.
And that might be why the story is simple, and comes with lots of recaps built in. The story feels like a conglomeration of story elements from other movies. There’s a drug that causes rabidity in Pokémon (like Zootopia), a parade of poison gas balloons (a la Batman ’89), white guy mind control (ever seen Get Out?), a giant folding landscape (cue the Inception horns), and enormous reptiles (and Ken Watanabe telling everyone to let them fight). So, if you’re looking for original or unique story elements, you won’t find them here. But, there is no shortage of Pokémon to find (I found tons of new Pokémon on my second viewing), and that’s really the strength of this movie. It gives you something you have been wanting to see since 1996.
The Pokémon were the best part, and the best Pokémon is the title character, Detective Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds, whose movie charm tends to bleed out into real life. Reynolds brings lots of humor and heart to the yellow fuzzball. But Psyduck, like Groot, conveys a lot with just a single word.
And, if you see the movie this weekend, you get free Pokémon cards.
4 out of 5.