While the original Pokémon craze wasn’t quite my tempo era, I was just too old when it originally hit the scene, I’m definitely aware of impact across the globe. I’m also one of the many who dived feet first into the addictive Pokémon GO for a while and so with the arrival of Detective Pikachu, it seemed right to see what the fuss was about. The early teasers certainly set an interesting tone for something fresh – taking a twist of the franchise that’s based on the game – and also the pull of Ryan Reynolds, as the voice of Pikachu, well we’d all be stupid not to want to check it out, wouldn’t we?
Directed by Rob Letterman, it focuses around a ‘missing person with a secret’ narrative, we follow in the steps of Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a 21-year-old who’s returned to the big city in search of his estranged father, the top detective Harry Goodman who’s mysteriously vanished. The difference between most ‘normal’ cities and Ryme City though is that it’s one of the only places in the world that’s managed to merge two societies, that of humans living happily with Pokémon as friends and colleagues, with a slight variation of the Humans TV series theme but here the Pokémon can’t usually speak to humans, or vice versa, instead relying on feelings to convey their emotions.
When Tim arrives in Ryme City to hunt for his father, there’s already unusual events going on, with people seemingly watching his every move once he’s back in his Dad’s office. Happily, the film wastes no time in introducing Detective Pikachu to its audience, and (voiced by Reynolds), he’s a quick-quipping small, yellow, soft and furry friend who’s there to try and find Harry as well. So, to recap, both our leads are trying to investigate the same mystifying happening.
While it wouldn’t necessarily be normal to be excited about a franchise lesser known to me, I’m very please to report that my anticipation wasn’t wasted and the voice placement of Reynolds is an important one, as it brings the expected comic timing but also the gravity and strength to the entire setup. To be utterly truthful, I was in in stitches after only 20 minutes, as Reynolds fast-talking Pika (with an avid love for coffee) really is hilarious. It’s not often I find myself laughing (properly) out loud at films every time, some try too hard to be funny, but with that dry, Deadpool-like wit (let alone his excellent performance in the underrated The Voices), Reynolds continues on his renaissance towards legendary status.
As the story progresses, and our two leads begin to uncover clues and secrets are slowly revealed about what happened to Tim’s Dad, the story does become a little more formulaic but it does have a few remaining twists, turns and humour to keep the ship sailing down the right path. This is helped by Justice Smith, a superb lead, with a fine balance of seriousness and comedy timing. His chemistry with Kathryn Newton‘s Lucy, an upcoming reporter who comes complete with a Psyduck, is also a welcome part of the narrative. Adding Bill Nighy to any film is usually a good thing and while here he’s less compelling than usual, he still adds what he needs to for the narrative, and there’s even time for the excellent Ken Watanabe.
I won’t spoil what happens but Detective Pikachu really is bonkers, brilliant and genuinely clever. Is this one of the finest gaming/comic tie-ins so far? It would very well be, Sonic the Hedgehog take note, this was a wise choice to bring to life and even better that it’s wonderful escapism, with its impressive-looking, neon-tinged streets echoing Toyko, London and more beyond, this is highly entertaining fictional storytelling for every age of the family.
Detective Pikachu is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Download and DVD. Order now: https://amzn.to/2lGOyhJ