I Choose You: Detective Pikachu Sparks Joy
Like most trainers, I was ten when I received my first pokemon. My parents bought a pair of GameBoys for Christmas for my brothers and I to share, as well as a game for each of us; mine was Pokemon Yellow. Based on the anime, Pokemon Yellow was the only game at the time in which your starter pokemon was automatically Pikachu and was the first game in which your pokemon could follow your avatar around in the game, interacting with you and expressing affection. I was immediately enamored; I had a pokemon of my own and a world to explore, and it was utterly magical. While the Pokemon franchise has remained a part of my life ever since then, nothing has quite been able to recapture that magic…up until now.
Detective Pikachu made me feel like I was ten again. The movie presents the audience with a bright, vibrant world where the pokemon are every bit as real as the people, beautifully shot and animated and just as accessible to newcomers to the franchise as it is welcoming to those who’ve been here for years.
Detective Pikachu is a candy-coated noire, a mystery with enough danger to keep it exciting and enough softness to make it fun for the whole family. Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) arrives in Ryme City to take care of his recently deceased father’s effects when he runs into Detective Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), his father’s pokemon partner. Pikachu can talk, but only Tim can hear it, so Pikachu convinces Tim to help him crack the case at hand: to regain Pikachu’s missing memories, and to find Tim’s dad, whom Pikachu insists isn’t dead. Along the way, they team up with Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) and her Psyduck partner, as Lucy has a nose for mystery and a vested interest in solving the case, which turns out to be part of a much larger mystery than any of them are prepared for. From there, it’s a pokemon-flavored detective thriller all the way down, with exciting battles, on-point comedy, and a few heartwarming and heart-wrenching scenes that have a very good chance of making you cry, regardless of how long you’ve been into pokemon.
The overall plot is okay – it’s a fun, exciting romp, but there’s nothing truly groundbreaking inherent in the story itself. There are parts that make sense, parts that require a flying leap in logic to make sense, and pacing oddities that are confusing upon first watch and far more cohesive upon rewatch. (Yes, I’ve seen it twice, and yes, knowing all the answers does indeed fix some of what I initially perceived to be the movie’s story issues.) If you’re a fan of pokemon, there’s some solid foreshadowing and fridge logic that you’ll appreciate, as well as a number of under-the-radar references that an experienced trainer can easily pick out. If you’re new to pokemon, the movie explains enough to bring you up to speed before the action really gets going, and it’s still a fun, campy ride regardless. It’s also downright hilarious at times: the Mr. Mime scene is twice as long as it is in the trailers, and they definitely saved the good stuff for the movie itself.
What really shines in Detective Pikachu is the acting. Ryan Reynolds is essentially playing a fuzzy PG Deadpool and loving every minute of it, and the comedy of his sass and snark gains another level of humor every time you remember that the only people privy to his comments are the audience and Tim. On top of that, Reynolds can still deliver dramatic and heartwarming scenes, and his performance makes them entirely believable, even when they’re coming out of a fuzzy little CGI face. Kathryn Newton’s Lucy is either aware she’s in a thriller or trying desperately to make her life into one, and Newton plays that up masterfully, making her a delight to watch. Justice Smith has the hardest role in the movie – he has to push the story, be the emotional core, and interact with a CGI costar – and his performance is pitch-perfect, to the point where I’m honestly not sure why I haven’t seen him play the lead in more movies. Get on that, Hollywood.
Overall, Detective Pikachu is a great time, and I’ll probably wind up seeing it again before it leaves theaters. Bring your kids, or your friends, or your parents, or whomever – everyone will be able to find something to enjoy and will probably walk out of the theaters wanting a pokemon of their own.
— Katie Cullen