Since the first trailer dropped, swathes of fans have gone from hating the movie's "realistic" CGI Pokémon to loving them. Question is, will viewers find more to love in "Detective Pikachu" (out May 10) than their favorite monsters? Here's what the reviews say:
Pikachu Meets A Guy Who Can Understand Him, And Pledges To Help The Guy Find His Missing Dad
Tim (Justice Smith) is tasked with taking care of his estranged father's apartment, who has gone missing. While he's looking around, Tim stumbles upon his father's Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), who can speak English and has amnesia and doesn't remember how he got there.
The early scenes actually play like junior-level noir, with an emphasis on moody shadows and the neon purples of the cityscape, while the script has fun with the genre's archetypes. For instance, Tim is pursued by and eventually teams up with a dogged gal-reporter Lucy (Kathryn Newton), who travels with a characteristically very nervous Psyduck.
No, He's Not Ash Ketchum — But Justice Smith's Tim Goodman Is Still A Solid Protagonist
The character of Tim Goodman from the game isn't beloved like Ash from the anime. In both the game and the movie, he's a former wanna-be trainer turned insurance salesman with a rotten relationship with his father; in the movie, Tim is actually far more interesting and well-drawn than the in-game original.
Smith sells not just how and why someone who's gone through family traumas like Tim has would want to cut himself off from the earnest, joyful co-operation the Pokémon world celebrates, but how someone in his position can grow to value the importance of the bond of friendship, and the need for a romantic sense of wanderlust, all over again, simply by re-entering this crazy world, and letting it back into his heart.
It's no small achievement to be convincing when your co-star is a CGI electric mouse, and Smith sells the story heart and soul, which makes it much easier to forgive the film's pacing issues and ultimate silliness.
Ryan Reynolds Tones Down His Shtick A Little, But His Take On Pikachu Can Still Come Off Too Deadpool-y
Reynolds found a career revival in spewing unrelenting snark, but that's not the mode he operates in here. Occasionally Pikachu delivers a wise-guy quip, but the strongest beats are rooted in a mutual melancholy he shares with Tim.
The entire time I was watching the movie, I never felt as if Pikachu was its own distinct character. Instead, Pikachu always came across as a more PG-rated Ryan Reynolds, constant quips and all. As someone who finds Reynolds' humor hit or miss, I felt Pikachu's characterization was jarring — it always seemed like he was trying very hard to make the audience laugh.
Don't Go In Expecting A Riveting Mystery, Do Go In Expecting The Third Act To Go Off The Rails
There aren't any gasp-inducing twists or turns in Detective Pikachu; the film's entire plot is guessable within the first 25 minutes, which isn't surprising, considering it's aimed at kids and tweens. It's not a head-scratching mind-bender, and it isn't supposed to be.
By the time "Detective Pikachu" unspools some third-act twists that only further muddy the waters, it's almost too late to appreciate that they are revealed during a literal Pokémon parade (hot tip for the inevitable sequel — set the entire thing at just such a parade). The eye candy is there, but not the basic sustenance of a coherent plot.
Even for a movie that's based on a video game/cartoon, the plot is pretty ridiculous, increasingly so as we get into the third act. That's half the fun, but it's also straight-up nonsense. Without giving away the twists and turns themselves, it suffices to say that Tim, Lucy, and Pikachu's quest to solve Harry's disappearance/death involves shady underground fighting rings, a powerful corporation that employs some who want to protect Pokémon as well as those who want to exploit them, and some WTF reveals that will either have you gasping in surprise or laughing at how ludicrous it all is.
The Movie Does A Great Job Making A World Filled With Pokémon Seem Both Fantastical And Totally Normal
I gasped. I squealed. I've been playing Pokémon for years, but the franchise has never felt as alive as it does in Detective Pikachu, because the film's scope is unprecedented. Even minor details, like posters, billboards, and ship signs, all hint at the ways humans and Pokémon come together. Perhaps it's easy to feel this way, coming in as a fan — the movie is jam-packed with subtle Easter eggs that you'll only understand if you've played the games or watched the anime.
There's an almost overwhelming background radiation of joy as Jigglypuffs, Charmanders, Arcanines, Snubbulls, and Lucy's particularly standout Psyduck (perhaps the true MVPokémon of the movie) potter about and do cute things with their human pals.
This simple, grandiose act of not treating Detective Pikachu like an origin story creates a world where Pokémon are a normal part of everyday life, which is what the original games taught young players a perfect, Pokémon-filled world looked like.
If Gawking At Pokémon Is All You Want, You're Golden — But If You're Truly Hyped, Set Your Expectations Lower
Its intricacies might be lost on very young viewers (get ready to explain a joke about birth canals, mum and dad!) but it's the sort of film that feels so gleefully amazed it's allowed to exist – a warm tonic for these increasingly trying times. To live in a world where a film about a Pikachu in a deerstalker (shot on actual film, no less!) exists is to believe in cinema again.
Detective Pikachu is, so far, my most disappointing experience at the movies this year. Again, I cannot stress how much I was looking forward to this movie. And what's even more frustrating is you can kind of see in here the blueprints for something really fun and unique, but instead it just comes off as disjointed, with ideas going all different directions.
Detective Pikachu isn't really trying to be a movie you think about beyond its most basic beats—and that's what makes it work, even if it ultimately means that it takes the crown of "Best Video Game Movie" simply by being basically competent rather than because it can truly shine on its own merits. If you've ever in your life, even for just a moment, been touched by the simple joy of Pokémon, then Detective Pikachu makes it clear that it understands you, and why you got that spark of joy in the first place. It just hopes that it understands you enough to mask its otherwise messy, relatively humdrum tale.
Will most audience members be happy enough seeing super-cute live-action Pokémon frolic about that they won't really care about the bonkers ending? Probably so.
Watch The Trailer