‘Detective Pikachu’ fails as a mystery, but succeeds as a love letter to Pokémon


Madelyn Lumsden

Ryan Reynolds stars as a disgruntled yet adorable sleuth in “Detective Pikachu.”

Wedged squarely between Avengers: Endgame’s reign over the box office and the beginning of the summer box office season, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is somewhat of a dark horse in terms of blockbusters. While I’ll admit I was skeptical when the film was first announced, Detective Pikachu had all the makings of a breakout hit- a beloved character, a bankable lead, and a trailer that generated enough interest for me to go out and buy a ticket. Though I’m certainly not the biggest Pokémon fan on the planet (my knowledge of the franchise begins and ends with the DS game and the animated TV show), even I could tell that Detective Pikachu’s target audience wasn’t just anybody to happened to show up looking for a movie to watch to kill time. While it may stumble in terms of plot and the acting isn’t incredibly compelling, Detective Pikachu still manages to invoke enough childhood nostalgia and sheer affection for tiny CGI creatures that I couldn’t help but walk out of the theatre in a good mood.

Detective Pikachu tells the story of Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) who stumbles upon a mystery after his father dies under suspicious circumstances. Teaming up with a wisecracking, caffeine-addicted Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), he uncovers a conspiracy on his journey to discover the truth about his father. Though the premise itself is promising, the overall execution of the plot is lackluster. The story never feels very purposeful, and it’s difficult to care about what’s going on when characters are moving from one place to another without a real sense of urgency. The movie has the twists and turns that come with the territory of being a mystery, but the end up being more confusing and contrived than intriguing.

Another weak point of the movie was the acting. Justice Smith makes for a serviceable lead, but his character is never incredibly compelling, and it’s difficult to really root for him because he’s not terribly interesting or well-developed. I can’t speak as kindly, however, for Kathryn Newton as Lucy Stevens. Though she was supposed to be a spunky, driven journalist, she came off as more annoying and over-enthusiastic than anything else, and her character adds nothing whatsoever to the film other than the occasional piece of information to move the plot along.

The star of the show, far and away, is Ryan Reynolds as the titular Detective Pikachu. Reynolds has a sort of infectious charm and energy that he carries to every role he takes on, and Pikachu is no exception. Though at first, it’s a little jarring to hear the voice of Deadpool coming out of the mouth of a fuzzy CGI creature, the shock value only adds to the humor. He somehow manages to inject a real amount of heart into the character, far more than the actual human protagonists. Although his comedic bits don’t always land, his delivery sells the weaker parts of the script, and for the movie definitely improves whenever he’s onscreen.

In fact, the presence of any Pokémon generally improves the film as a whole. Detective Pikachu is such a silly, out-of-the-box premise that it’s at its best when it’s not bogging itself down with the mystery plot. Instead, the best parts of the film are when it’s doing what it does best- providing blissful childhood nostalgia and wish-fulfillment for those who grew up with the Pokémon franchise. The spectacle of seeing Pokémon wandering the streets like pedestrians never really grows old, and the CGI (thankfully) makes them look adorable instead of unsettling (take notes, Sonic the Hedgehog).

Though anybody paying attention will be able to predict the twist ending from miles away, Detective Pikachu is nonetheless worth a watch if you love Ryan Reynolds, have a soft spot for adorable creatures, or are just looking to kick back and reminisce about how amazing Pokémon really is. If you’re willing to overlook the lackluster plot, Detective Pikachu really is a crowd pleaser.