Pokemon has been a worldwide phenomenon for the better part of three decades. But beyond the card game, the animated TV show and various video games (remember that summer we all aimlessly wandered the city streets playing “Pokemon GO”?), Pokemon never really caught on at the movies.
Of course, when there’s more money to be made, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to stop trying! Enter “Pokemon Detective Pikachu,” the first live-action Pokemon movie that, at first glance, promises to add an innovative spark to the franchise, but then just winds up being a super-lazy version of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
In a world where Pokemon can be found at every turn, like squirrels and pigeons in the park, young Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) learns his estranged father, a police detective, was killed while working a case.
When Tim goes to his father’s apartment to pick up his things, he meets Detective Pikachu, the adorable flagship Pokemon who normally just says “pika, pika,” but now jabbers constantly with the voice of Ryan Reynolds.
Only Tim can hear Pikachu talk and the fuzzy little guy tells him he has amnesia, but is determined to get his memory back and help Tim uncover what really happened to his father.
Along the way, Tim and Pikachu are helped along by a plucky wannabe reporter (Kathryn Newton), a gruff police lieutenant (Ken Watanabe) and a benevolent billionaire (Bill Nighy).
But, once you get past the setup and a couple of inspired moments early on, it quickly becomes apparent this movie exists solely to propagate the Pokemon brand.
Diehard Pokemon fans will still most likely get a kick out of seeing all of their favorite critters digitally rendered into the real world in all of their three-dimensional glory. But, for the casual observer, there’s just not a lot of meat on the bone. Even Reynolds’ patented quip-iness feels half-hearted and watered down.
Even though Pokemon implores you to “catch ‘em all,” this is one you’re going to want to release back into the wild.
“Pokemon Detective Pikachu” is rated PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor and thematic elements.