'Pokemon: Detective Pikachu' Review

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I’ve never ventured into the world of Pokemon. I allowed the “Pokemon Go!” craze to pass by, as people all over the world, with their eyes glued to their phones, wandered into traffic trying to “catch” animated creatures.

A live-action/CGI Pokemon movie could’ve gone down many different paths. But Warner Bros. chose to focus on the popular character, Pikachu. “Detective Pikachu” is based on the video game of the same name. The iconic little yellow guy has a mini-Sherlock Holmes hat and a very recognizable voice.

Director Rob Letterman (“Goosebumps”) clearly knew if Pikachu was going to say more words than his usual “Pika Pika”, he needed the voice of Deadpool. Recently on “The Tonight Show”, Ryan Reynolds said that when production began he wanted to do “an old school gumshoe kind of Columbo… Brooklyn thing” to go along with the film noir vibe of the movie. “And they were like, ‘Maybe just do Ryan Reynolds.’”

And that’s exactly what we get. “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” is dominated by a PG-rated “Deadpool” Reynolds, complete with random, sarcastic, multi-meaning (yet meaningless) one-liners. And it has other things in common with that Marvel, anti-hero franchise: messy action sequences, cardboard performances and an over-stuffed story.

Tim (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”’s Justice Smith) learns his detective dad has died in a car crash. But Tim believes his father is still alive. Tim meets his dad’s Pokemon, a Pikachu, who served as his father’s partner in (solving) crime. But this Pikachu speaks English — and he and Tim can understand each other. So they decide to partner-up to find-out if dad’s accident wasn’t an accident, and if he is still alive.

Ryan Reynolds as Detective Pikachu
Ryan Reynolds as Detective Pikachu

“Detective Pikachu” takes place in a society in which humans and Pokemon co-exist. (If this was the case in real life, just go ahead and send me on the next expedition to Mars.) There’s a whole bunch of added on sci-fi mumbo jumbo. And there’s at least a half-dozen scenes whose sole purpose is to explain the ridiculously complicated, utterly silly plot.

Of course, there’s an obligatory love interest for Tim, a “mad” scientist (played by a wasted Bill Nighy), and Ken Watanabe. His appearance in this and the upcoming “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” were likely part of a WB package deal.

Diehard Pokemon fans may enjoy some of the inside references and visual antics (the CGI look of the various Pokeman characters is impressive). But youngsters used to the playing/trading card phenomenon won’t know what’s going on in this film 90% of the time. Some of the decisions made by Letterman, including the unforgivable final scene, are flat-out puzzling.

I’ve sat through some painful films. And I always stick it out to see if things can get even worse. “Detective Pikachu” is one of those cases where I just couldn’t wait for a movie to end. There’s next to nothing entertaining in this stagnant, uninspired effort.

So, to sum-it-up: “Pokemon DON’T Go”.

Jackson Murphy: Emmy Award-winning Film Critic / Entertainment Reporter. Broadcast Film Critics Assoc. (@CriticsChoice), SAG-AFTRA (@SAGAwards)