Pokémon Detective Pikachu

I went back and forth on whether I expected to enjoy this film. I was 11 when I got my first Pokémon game: Pokémon Red. I was at the perfect age to be in the first generation of children entranced by Pokémon.

I had one of these! You’d slap it on your hand it it would give Japanese sound clips.

For a humble children’s RPG turned into a 90-billion-dollar, multi-decade marketing empire, it was an experience that meant a lot to me, and continues to despite my growing older and wiser. Somewhere out there is at least one Boomer who feels about G.I. Joes and Star Wars the way I feel about Pokémon.

But I’m not ridiculous. I’m not one of those people whose adult reality is defined by their childhood nostalgia. I’m not the sort of nerd who decried the Star Wars prequels as having ruined his childhood. I’m well aware of the role and value of nostalgia, and as an adult I recognize that Pokémon isn’t aimed at me. I’ve aged out of that demographic, and if there’s anything I can find to like about Pokémon these days, it’s more of a lucky happenstance than anything.

So I didn’t expect to love Detective Pikachu, and I didn’t expect to hate it, either. I wanted it to be good enough, and indeed, that’s basically what it was.

I heard a lot before attending this film about how the acting was awful, and that much was true. Ken Watanabe was in this film which was at first a nice surprise, and then an unimpressive one. While Justice Smith had his better moments–I really think he did better in the dramatic scenes than any others–and Bill Nighy did as well as he was paid to, most of the acting by human characters in this film was really awful. Kathryn Newton, who I liked in Blockers, was too damn much in this movie. So was Chris Geere, who I’ve never seen before, and who sucked.

Ryan Reynolds did fine as Pikachu. The character was no better and no worse than I expected. Sometimes the jokes didn’t land, and other times he was very funny.

While the CG sometimes stood too far apart from the sets into which it was inserted, I think the effect of bringing Pokémon to life worked more often than it didn’t. I’d genuinely enjoy seeing more movies in this style.

That said, this movie was stupid. At first it was the sort of stupid I came prepared for. You know, “entertaining, but I don’t want to think too hard about it,” stupid. But after the first hour, it got a lot stupider.

When exposition needed to be given, it was dumped heavily through some convenient technology and scenery. That’s not really what one wants out of a movie with “Detective” right in its name. And while I could overlook that, and was doing my best to, things got worse when the predictable villain revealed his absolutely nanners motivation.

I won’t spoil it here. But you should know it is neither interesting nor satisfying. It’s peak lazy anime writing, and I wonder if it came from the plot of the game on which this film is based, because it’s almost difficult for me to believe that American movie writers would come up with a motivation that ridiculous for the villainous climax of their jillion-dollar-franchise movie

It wasn’t just that the plot began to make less sense the more of it was revealed, it’s also that the jokes seemed to taper off in the latter half of the movie as well. The more seriously it began to take itself, the less interesting things began taking place on-screen.

There is an escape sequence in a laboratory, followed by another where the very geography the characters are standing on is fighting against them/ This is followed by a sentimental scene, which is followed by a sudden and curious character reveal…and of that 20 or so minutes of film, none of it is exciting or engaging. I just felt like my stepmom must have felt when she took us to see Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back (she fell asleep).

Because I basically only enjoyed half this movie, it seems appropriate enough to give it a 2.5/5 and call it Good with a great big asterisk beside it. It’s too well-made to be Bad and it’s absolutely worth crediting it as THE FIRST VIDEO GAME FILM OF ALL TIME THAT DIDN’T MOSTLY SUCK.

At the same time, though, it just ain’t all that great. So. Whatever. See it or don’t. You’ll be fine either way.

Also, give this a look.

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