The live-action Pokemon movie directed by Rob Letterman has obviously charmed audiences, at least according to box-office numbers. It could be that the film has tapped into a vast horde of Poke-fans, or it’s possible that parents are just desperate for a light, family-friendly film to cleanse the soul after the heart-wrenching pounding our emotions endured in Avengers: Endgame.
Either way, this movie certainly delivers. it’s as light and fluffy as a Jigglypuff, designed to charm the avid Pokemon fans in the audience while delivering a fairly standard murder-mystery story.
In a world where Pokemon are not just real, but are the only form of wildlife, most humans have paired up with their own Poke-partner (ew, not like that; like a lifelong BFF). But not Tim Goodman (Justice Smith). He’s living a quiet life in a small town, until he gets word that his estranged dad, a police detective in the big city, has died, presumably while on a case.
Tim travels to the city to wrap up his father’s affairs, and gets entangled in investigating his apparent death. He’s aided by Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), a clickbait listicle writer who has aspirations of being an investigative reporter and has been looking into Harry Goodman’s death, and of course, the titular adorable fuzzball Pikachu in a deerstalker hat, voiced by Ryan Reynolds.
Justice Smith is appropriately wide-eyed and bumbling, Kathryn Newton channels the sassy dames of the best 40s film noir, and the villains (Bill Nighy and Chris Geere) chew the scenery effectively. But the real star here, aside from the impressive 3D rendering of the Pokemon, is Reynolds’ voice acting.
The irony of a caffeine-addicted, hard-bitten detective in the body of a cute n’ cuddly animal is an old conceit, but a reliable one, and Reynolds’ deadpan style of delivery elevates and updates it. If it wasn’t for his voice work this would be a pretty dull mystery for non-Poke-heads, but he squeezes in enough offhand asides to keep adults in the audience chuckling if not LOL-ing. You can’t help but be reminded of his starring role as Deadpool, inasmuch as that role also is essentially mostly voice work, since his face is covered for most of the film.
Obviously his role as PIkachu involves far less innuendo and zero F-bombs, as this is squarely a family film. But his vaguely naughty charm shines through nonetheless. Ultimately, the movie is effectively engaging, a light confection designed to amuse. Don’t think too hard about it. You’ll forget it immediately anyway.