Plot: After detective Harry Goodman disappears, his estranged son Tim (Justice Smith) travels to collect his father’s things and make sure his final arrangements are in proper order. He didn’t know his dad well, so he feels a little disconnected, but still has a sense of loss, to be sure. As he looks around his father’s office, he encounters a most unique Pokemon, a Pikachu that has a special trait, as he can talk. Of course, Tim is taken back by this and assumes he is hallucinating, but it soon becomes clear that the Pikachu was his father’s Pokemon partner. Pikachu also reveals that while most believe Harry is dead, he knows otherwise, despite a current memory loss. He convinces Tim that his father is alive and needs help, so the unlikely allies set out to uncover the truth, unaware of how deep the conspiracy might run.
Entertainment Value: A live action adaptation with a more “realistic” take on Pokemon seemed like a risky, tall order, but Detective Pikachu pulls off the concept about as well as can be expected. I think one reason the movie works so well is that it captures the magic of Pokemon, the world inside the movie seems in line with the video games, even with some shifts in the relationship between people and Pokemon. The narrative is fine, if overly predictable from the jump, but this is aimed at young audiences, so a wild twist wasn’t really needed here. The switch from a trainer’s experience to a more integrated Pokemon world is interesting, while also allowing to see a wealth of Pokemon and how they function within the larger movie world. So in this city, the Pokemon aren’t used as just battle fodder, but the movie makes it clear this is an experimental approach, so the rest of the world is as seen in the video games. The humor is rooted in Pokemon gags that are silly and fun if you’re familiar with the Pokemon or not, while a wealth of random pop culture references are also found here. So it helps if you know a little about Pokemon, but it is by no means a requirement. I think for what it is, Detective Pikachu is solid and most Pokemon fans will likely want to give a chance, while younger viewers will appreciate the broad humor and colorful visuals.
I know, we all wanted Danny DeVito to be the voice of Pikachu, but instead we wound up with Ryan Reynolds, who brings his usual shtick. He fires off rapid references and quips as he does in most of his roles, but doesn’t do much to make this performance stand out from the rest. I suppose the nature of the narrative limited that to an extent, but this just feels like another standard Reynolds effort. Even so, fans of his style should have fun here and while restrained by the family friendly boundaries, he is allowed to sneak in some jokes for the grownups here and there. I still think DeVito would have been hilarious, but it is what it is. Justice Smith has the lead and is fine, if unmemorable, while Kathryn Newton steals a number of scenes as a perky, over the top reporter. She brings a much needed energy to many scenes and her enthusiasm elevates the material, so I think she was a valuable addition to the ensemble. The cast also includes Suki Waterhouse, Rita Ora, and Bill Nighy.
The Disc: Detective Pikachu was given the 4k treatment and as expected, the movie looks excellent in this release. The image is razor sharp, yielding remarkable depth and detail, the kind of visuals that pop right off the screen. The finest details spring to life, from fur on some of Pokemon to all the small visual cues in the bustling backgrounds, simply stunning to soak it all in. This is another example of a movie you could revisit just to pick up all the background details you missed before. The colors are vibrant and contrast is dead on, this is a fantastic treatment. You can choose to watch the movie in Detective Mode, which brings up trivia, behind the scenes elements, hidden touches, and more, kind of an interactive experience, which is cool. The extras also include Mr. Mime’s audio comments (!), an alternate opening sequence, a music video, and several promotional, behind the scenes featurettes.