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PokÚmon Detective Pikachu
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Detective Pikachu represents something very unique. It's a mash up of genres rarely put together on screen before. It's an unconventional blending of real and fantasy elements. A rare adaptation that's willing to break free from the source material to tell an original story, while still respecting its origins. And most surprisingly, it's a video game movie that's actually pretty good.

So much of this is the star. Ryan Reynolds is perfect as Pikachu. He's energetic and cheerful to a fault when he's not absolutely fed up with everything. He's oh so eager to be your best friend- unless he thinks you're an idiot and never want to see you again. He's uncommonly clever and yet something of an idiot, always overconfident and way in over his head. His natural sarcasm and mild arrogance make a perfect counterpoint to his overwhelming cuteness, and somehow make him even more adorable.

And Justice Smith is very good as his reluctant partner Tim. He makes a very good strait man to Pikachu's manic quirkiness, and shows some pretty good comedic chops of his own as he starts really getting in to the whole detective thing. Their chemistry together, and their whole relationship, in which a human reluctantly teams with a talking animal to solve a mystery, reminds me a lot of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, only with the talking animal playing the cop.

Much of the best material has already shown up in the trailers, but there's plenty more where that came from. Besides the oddball relationship between the main characters, and the delightful mime scene we've had a preview of, this movie has a lot of fun with the old detective genre clich├ (C)s. The good cop-bad cop routine, the hard-nosed reporter, even the hero's drinking problem; all here and all taken in hilariously over the top directions. And there are some very good gags based on the various Pok├ (C)mon's personalities and physiologies.

The biggest surprise for me is that is actually a competent detective movie. The missing person plot is not only central to the movie, but makes for quite the sprawling caper, and is actually solved through some pretty good detective work. Some of the early twists are thoroughly predictable, but they help set up the big reveals that come faster and faster as we realize how vast a scheme our heroes have uncovered. But then at the end it has to get seriously weird, with twists that don't really make sense even by the standards of video game or anime logic. Maybe it would have made sense in an old JRPG or a fantasy anime, but in the context of this movie it's just bizarre.

From a technical standpoint, the effects work is beautiful. The Pok├ (C)mon are gorgeous (when they're not purposely unsettling) and mesh almost seamlessly with their live action surroundings to a degree I wouldn't have expected. Which is key to the movie's unique worldbuilding. It's because the CGI and live action blend so well that it can create such unique blending of the real world and the games.

And it's rather fascinating to see a world in which Pok├ (C)mon are everywhere and part of every day life, but which doesn't entirely revolve around training and battles and gym badges. Here we see that people do have day jobs as baristas or reporters or insurance adjusters, but with their Pok├ (C)mon ever present, working jobs of their own. So you can find Lucoldos serving coffee and Machamp directing traffic as people and Pok├ (C)mon scurry past on their busy way. The quirky internal logic and human-Pok├ (C)mon interactions are a lot like Roger Rabbit too.

So in short, Detective Pikachu is funny, charming, surprisingly plot driven, and one of the more unique productions of recent years. It could use more narrative coherence and less weirdness towards the end, but it still mostly worked. Kids will love it, and it's a real treat for anyone who grew up trying to catch Ô~em all.