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Detective Pikachu is undoubtedly the best movie ever made… about Pokémon. Nobody who sat through 1998’s awful Pokémon: The First Movie, any subsequent Pokémon films or the more than 1,000 TV episodes, could argue that quality entertainment has been a priority of the children’s monster franchise. But following the colossal success of its Pokémon Go game, the Japanese brand has undergone an expensive Hollywood makeover, and if the results are not exactly groundbreaking, they’ve at least caught the attention of the wider world, mainly thanks to the inspired casting of Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu. Without Reynolds this would be pretty run-of-the-mill; with him it’s a perfectly acceptable family movie. Given the history, that’s a giant leap for Pokémon-kind.
Detective Pikachu’s template is clearly Robert Zemeckis’s classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – both in its junior film-noir plot and its mix of live-action humans and animated fantasy creatures. The setting is Ryme City, a metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side-by-side, although they cannot understand each others’ languages. For the uninitiated, Pikachu is a furry little yellow creature, capable of delivering powerful electric shocks when his cuteness is called into question. In previous incarnations, Pikachu was a loyal pet who could only say his own name (“Pika Pika!”); now he’s a wisecracking urbanite with a deerstalker hat and a caffeine addiction. Reynolds brings the same comic energy and timing to the role as he did with Deadpool.
Apart from the audience, the only person who can understand Pikachu is Tim (played by Justice Smith), a lonely teen from out-of-town investigating the death of his father. Tim’s dad was mixed up in some shady Pokémon dealings involving secret experiments. But is he really dead? What does Pikachu’s amnesia have to do with it? Or the local mega-corporation, run by Bill Nighy and son? And could it be that the perky teen reporter (Kathryn Newton) claiming to have uncovered a conspiracy is really on to something?
As a mystery thriller, Detective Pikachu is more Scooby-Doo than Chinatown, and unlike Roger Rabbit, there’s little for grownup viewers to savour, although it does at least have some emotional grounding in its heroes’ respective daddy issues. The blend of live-action and CGI isn’t always seamless either, but there’s always another novel creature from the Pokémon menagerie around the corner to keep things interesting. Some are of them are entertainingly odd, like Psyduck, a large, passive-aggressive character who must be kept calm at all times with relaxing music and foot massages – worst pet ever. Or a jester-looking critter who can only communicate via mime, to the exasperation of those trying to get information out of it. By comparison, the humans are rather bland but it’s Reynolds who saves the day. He takes what could have been a generic conceit by the scruff of the neck and gives it the requisite jolt of energy – electrical, caffeine-derived or otherwise. He’s worth every penny.
Source: The Guardian
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