REVIEW: “Lacks Lightness and Humour” – ‘Detective Pikachu’ (2019)

Based on the trading cards and video games that caused a global sensation, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu welcomes fans to Ryme City, a bustling metropolis where both humans and Pokémon live together in harmony. After the sudden supposed death of his father, young insurance salesman Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) travels to the city where he meets Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), his father’s Pokémon partner. After getting over the initial shock that the two can understand each other, something that humans and Pokèmon shouldn’t be able to do, they embark on an investigation into Tim’s father’s disappearance as Detective Pikachu is convinced that his partner is still alive.

During their investigation, Tim and Pikachu bump into Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), an aspiring journalist who works as an unpaid intern for the local news channel. She quickly becomes an ally to their investigation, eager to discover new information about the case. Lucy has an animated, peppy personality, so much so that she feels like a cartoon character that has stepped right out of the video game. The enthusiastic spirit of Lucy contrasts the more subdued Tim, who seems more human and disjointed from the Pokémon world, as if representing us, the viewer. The costuming of the human characters also ties them to the world, with simplistic designs similar to that of the trainers found in the trading card game, a nice touch that recalls the franchises roots.

The ‘film noir-esque’ narrative fits surprisingly well with its subject matter, the rain slicked streets and glow from the neon lights reaffirming the films gloomy noir setting. The mystery is interesting enough to keep its audiences attention, and ties everything up at the end quite satisfyingly. It isn’t all to inventive, but feels thought out, and takes our protagonists on an adventure throughout the entirety of Ryme City.

The Pokémon have been animated to look organic and animalistic, which is quite off putting at first for those familiar with the character’s classic anime style. However it kind of works in its setting, and some of the more ‘realistic’ style Pokémon are actually very cute; Pikachu himself in particular. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a great deal of variety in terms of Pokémon as the film filled its background with repeats of the same ten or so characters, disappointing for fans hoping to spot their favourites.

With the casting of Ryan Reynolds as Detective Pikachu, I was expecting more one-liners and silly humour, but jokes were few and far between. Quips that played on the Pokémon’s unique abilities worked the best, and they should have taken more advantage of this. In general the film just wasn’t fun enough, the noir setting and mystery element seems tailored towards keeping adult fans engaged, and forgets that ultimately Pokèmon is a children’s franchise.

With the adorable Pikachu in his detectives hat, and solid narrative, Detective Pikachu successfully pulls off this more ‘realistic’ take on the franchise. However it lacks the lightness and humour that could have made this movie far more entertaining, particularly for the younger audience.