I’m not a huge Pokemon fan, let me just put that out there. The first Pokemon game I ever really got into was Pokemon Go, so I’m fairly new to this whole thing. So that’s the lens I’m using to review this movie, so I may be off-target from some of you that ride or die Pokemon.
Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) gets the horrible news that his father has died. His father, a detective in the fictional Ryme City, was investigating something and seems to have gotten close to discovering the truth. Tim is confronted by his father’s old partner, a Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), who has amnesia and can for some reason speak to and understand Tim (something never done before). These two venture out to discover what happened to Tim’s father and if he’s really dead.
We encounter an energetic young journalist (Kathryn Newton), one of the rich founders of Ryme City (Bill Nighy), and his son (Chris Geere). Ken Watanabe stars as a police lieutenant who knew Tim’s father.
I remember reading the news that Ryan Reynolds was going to voice Pikachu and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. There’s an incongruence that I was struggling with, matching that voice to this Pokemon. But let me say this now… Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu was a genius move and the best part of this movie. He’s funny, focusing his most PG-13 version of Deadpool, but the movie also cleverly writes Pikachu, full of nods and references to the larger Pokemon world (though I didn’t always get them) and plenty to constantly be laughing about.
The second star of the film is the world that they’ve created here, seamlessly incorporating Pokemon into every nook and cranny. Every pigeon has been replaced by a Pidgey. They’re walking the streets and working jobs and it all absolutely looks fantastic. It almost requires a second viewing because some of these sequences are so jam-packed that you’ll need to rewatch the catch all of them (pun intended).
So if you’re looking for a solid comedy and you’re a fan of this world, this is a no-brainer to check it out and you’ll likely have an absolute blast.
What doesn’t work?
The first 2/3 of this movie is amazing, I would’ve ranked this movie a notch up if it had kept that momentum. Instead, the movie goes a bit off the rails in the climax, giving us a sudden threat that turns the whole movie sideways and has a thousand plotholes. This makes the climax a little more confusing than satisfying. I think even diehard Pokemon fans will agree that the movie didn’t exactly stick the landing.
This movie also has a problem with its human characters. The Pokemon were great, but the human actors alongside them were fairly weak, especially our lead Justice Smith, who I don’t think is quite ready to carry a film like this. His comedy chops don’t work and he doesn’t carry the emotional weight of the film either, instead delivering a fairly bland and uninteresting performance. Our other humans are barely in the movie but don’t really stick out much. The best human performance was probably Karan Soni (Deadpool) but he’s only in one early sequence.
This movie is a split decision. If you’re a fan of Pokemon, you’ll love that aspect. Seeing them come to life is astounding and the effects are surprisingly good. However, the humans are not nearly as interesting and a weird twist in the climax makes the movie end with a bit of a stumble. Most of you will still have a great time, but you might debate if it’s truly a great movie.