Movie Review: Can Ryan Reynolds make “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” worth watching?


The key to Pokémon, we’re told in “Pokémon Detective Pikachu?”

“You have to be open to the experience.”

So say this about the live-action-plus-the-voice-of-Ryan Reynolds take on the game, the characters, the “universe.” This “Pokémon” does a better job of revealing the enduring appeal of it all, the treasure hunt, collecting, competing and “companions” (pet/helper) and never-ending supply of new and different characters to discover, pursue and “fight.” It’s built to be addicting.

No wonder a generation of Japanese stopped having sex. Who has the time with Pokémon and all the other bubbly distractions that pop culture has to offer?

This “Detective Pikachu” has impressive effects — a topographical terra firma-bending “earthquake” that stuns, an eye-candy-filled finale that revels in the digital production design of this alternate reality, “Ryme City” a neon and primary colored splashed combination of Tokyo, London and FAO Schwartz.

But the movie? Stuffed and overstuffed, a crushing bore that’s not nearly as cute as casting Canadian cut-up Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Pikachu suggests it might be.

Fanatics may embrace the endless parade of “Pokémon” — tiny gators and geckos, ducks, monkeys and dinosaurs with names like Psyduck, Mankey, Mewtew and many, many others, more than most of us could possibly imagine.

But this limp “story” will put the sentient to sleep, and there’s just not enough Reynolds wisecracks to stave it off.

In a world where people “catch” pokémon (“They have to choose you, too!”) as companions young Tim (Justice Smith) has outgrown that. He’s in insurance.

But a car crash claims the life of his estranged dad, so he has to travel to Ryme City to collect his things.

Dad was a cop, “one of the best” his boss (Ken Watanabe, collecting a check) insists. Dad was onto something. The only clue is in his apartment, a vial with an “R” on its label containing purple gas. Naturally, Tim opens it and gets a whiff.

That’s when he sees the Pikachu in a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat. But when this Pikachu talks, Tim doesn’t hear the “Pika Pika” burps and bleeps the rest of the human world hears. He picks up the dulcet, sarcastic tones of Ol’Deadpool himself, Ryan Reynolds.

“There’s no such thing as ‘Daddy issues’ without ‘Daddy.'”

He’s determined to solve Tim’s éut he’s determined to make the kid join him in his search for clues. Let’s get started, and no “bad case of the frightsies” can stop us!



Smith is blandly game enough, interacting with a digital furry plush doll on his shoulder. Kathryn Newton underwhelms as a reporter-wannabe who is ALSO on the case, Bill Nighy is the oligarch who runs the TV network and the rest of Ryme City.

And all of them are just devices to get us to another scene jammed with all manner of pokémon, with a few fights, a few critters showing off their strengths and weaknesses and some nice explosions.

Reynolds presold this movie in the trailers and TV commercials — Deadpool wise-assery dressing up game contorted into a movie plot.

But his lines aren’t funny enough or numerous enough for that to be truth in advertising. Effects aside, irrespective of Reynolds, Pokémon is what Pokémon has always been on the big screen — pablum.


MPAA Rating: PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, and thematic elements.

Cast: Justice Smith, the voice of Ryan Reynolds, Bill Nighy, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe

Credits:Directed by Rob Letterman, script by Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Derek Connolly and Rob Letterman. A Warner Brothers release.

Running time: 1:44


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Movie Review: Can Ryan Reynolds make “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” worth watching?

  1. Alex says:

    The movie looks bland and good review but I don’t get why so many of your reviews of anything that has a Japanese origin has to go for the vaguely racist random aside about sex. It has nothing to do with the movie, this one especially.

    • It’s not racist to echo internal Japanese op ed complaints about an infantilized generation distracted by childish crap into their 30s, refusing to grow up. It’s happening here too.

  2. Jason W. Thompson says:

    You didn’t have to use that many words for your review. You could have just said, “Hi, I don’t like anime and look down upon people who do. I was determined to not like this movie from the start and so I don’t.”

    Now for those who stumbled upon this wondering if this movie is worth seeing and want a real review, here you go! I would say that it lives up to expectations. It’s not an Oscar winning film, but tells a simple and coherent story full of humor.

    If you’re a Pokémon fan or your offspring is a Pokémon fan, then watch it in theaters. Otherwise, catch it on Netflix. It’s one of those rare movies that anyone can enjoy and anyone can take their kids to see blindly.

  3. RafaelRios says:

    the Film sucks,but I’m here thinking with myself what hell does the japanese generation that has stopped sex have anything to do with the whole thing??
    In fact,the methodology behind this survey is highly dubious as some people already pointed out:
    Don’t worry champ video games,Animes(Hardly anyone in japan watch this outside of the films),J-pop or comic books are not the reason behind it.

    • Perhaps when you learn the difference between “reliable” news sources and cherry picked Slate blogs, you’ll outgrow puerile and work your way up to piffle. The two are connected, and the only disagreement is over which is the chicken and which the egg. Refusing to grow up, settle down and tackle adult responsibilities because of escape through childish pursuits and passions, or embracing games, virtual life and online sex etc. because of an uncertain future, economy, etc.

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