If not for the convoluted plot and thin humans, this would have been a visual wonder.
Even as a kid, I still had no idea what Pokemon was even about. I thought it was the name of the little animal creature who electrocutes his enemies. No, that name would be Pikachu. No adult would understand all this card trading, video game playing, and toy crafting Japanese franchise. Even the late Joel Siegel had the right to vote “Pokemon: The 1st Movie” as the worst film of 1999.
We just got “Pokemon Detective Pikachu,” a live action version of the cartoon, and similar to “Tom & Jerry: The Movie” and the 1993 “Pink Panther” TV series, Pikachu has a speaking role, provided by Ryan Reynolds, instead of Danny DeVito (since he had no idea what this crap is). He’s also given a human partner-a would-be Pokemon trainer named Tim (Justice Smith from “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”), who’s the only one of his kind who can understand him, while everybody else hears “Pika Pika.”
These two mismatched characters have to solve their own mysteries. Tim’s father has been presumed dead, and Pikachu lost his memories. So, they have to use their gifts to communicate with humans and Pokémon.
The visual wonder I’m referring to is the main utopia: Ryme City, which looks like Tokyo and London merged together. The lights, the skyscrapers, and the streets-all of which match the description.
But mostly, I was dazzled at the look and feel of the Pokémon creatures. They look fantastic-some of the best CGI effects I’ve seen in a long while-ranking with the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park” or the cartoon characters in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” They look like Pokémon creatures and not Yogi Bear and Smurfs aliens.
And Reynolds is fun as Pikachu. He’s able to use his sly charms and dialogue to let the Japanese creature speak English and not just “Pika Pika.” And Smith does a good job as his human partner. Obviously, their chemistry is much better than Melissa McCarthy and a puppet in “The Happytime Murders” or Reynolds and Jeff Bridges in “R.I.P.D.”
But it’s difficult for me to fully enjoy it. The story gets recycled and confusing at times, forcing me to rely on one-liners and action. The other humans are blandly written, like the head of Ryme City (Bill Nighy) and a young wannabe reporter (Kathryn Newton).
And the movie has to be so short and overproduced, that it’s difficult for me to catch a breather in the narrative. This is an ambitious project with some of the best visuals I’ve ever seen and terrific work from Reynolds and Smith, but it’s not really a movie for people unfamiliar with the source material.