Film, Film Review

REVIEW: Detective Pikachu (2019) dir. Rob Letterman


This review is probably going to come across as inherently biased. As someone who as never stopped playing the Pokémon video games even when I got to college and beyond, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is essentially a dream come true. Finally, filmgoing audiences are able to immerse themselves in a world full the imaginative creatures known as Pokémon. The technology has finally caught up to the imagination of the games. Real people can interact with Bulbasaur, Psyduck, and many more.

As you can tell from the title, this film doesn’t follow the trajectory of one of the main series games. There are no gym leaders, no Team Rocket, no trainer challenges. Instead, this is essentially a film noir homage with Pokémon filling the frame. It is slower-paced than I expected, but the action sequences – especially the bonkers finale – have great energy and visual flair. Much has been made of the fact that Pikachu was made on 35mm film, not digital stock. This decision paid off. The film looks great and the Pokémon look amazing. Nothing can ever beat the toons of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but this film comes shockingly close.

Pokémon-averse Tim Goodman (Justice Smith, served far better here than in last summer’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) travels to the Pokémon utopia of Ryme City after learning that his detective father has gone missing after a car accident. While cleaning his estranged father’s office, he comes across a Pikachu wearing a little Holmes-esque hat. This is no ordinary Pikachu: unlike regular Pokémon who can only say their names, this one speaks in the snarky voice of Ryan Reynolds. Detective Pikachu has lost his memory, but knows he’s meant to find his missing partner. Tim and Pikachu team up to uncover the mystery of Harry’s disappearance with the help of an intrepid reporter (Kathryn Newton) and her anxiety-riddled Psyduck.

The film loses a couple steps when the characters leave Ryme City, but quickly recovers in the third act. It’s hard for me to find flaws in a film that has nailed the Pokémon designs this thoroughly, especially in the wake of the reviled Sonic the Hedgehog trailer. Maybe I’ll have more nitpicks after my second or third viewing, but for now I just have Henry Jackman’s excellent score on repeat while breathing easy that there is finally a good video game film adaptation.

All in all, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu completely succeeds in what it set out to do: craft an entertaining mystery set in the world of Pokémon and prime the movie-going public for a new monster-filled cinematic universe. Also, I want to hug a soft chubby Pikachu more than anything in the world. Maybe the technology will get there one day too.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
Dir. Rob Letterman
104 min

Now playing everywhere (though the Hassle recommends the Capitol, or your local mom & pop cineplex)


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