Review: Detective Pikachu
If the slapdash smatterings of nostalgia aren’t able to pull you into the money grabbing CGI-fest that Detective Pikachu is then you’ll struggle through your viewing nearly as much as I did. Depending almost entirely on nostalgia factor, Detective Pikachu is what happens when the new generation long for films that make them feel young again. But I was part of the generation that grew up with Pokémon, and I find myself thinking that I would never want to return to such an era. But with the likes of Toy Story 4, Men in Black: International and The Lego Movie 2, I seem to feel forcefully obligated to venture back into my childhood.
Detective Pikachu is yet another film from 2019 that drags my childhood back, kicking and screaming, into the cinema. After an already horrid year for film, the nostalgia factor getting a bullet to the head through all of these dormant 90s franchise revivals is in essence the final straw for this year.
I find the work of Ryan Reynolds to be as grating as it is unfunny, and his starring role in Pokémon’s latest feature film Detective Pikachu soon becomes more of a challenge than an enjoyable experience. Banking on the sudden surge of interest people have for Reynolds, the film becomes a tag team of unfunny writing and unkempt performances. Reynolds’ voice work holds no real appeal or interest over the character, one so iconic that any actor to lend their voice to Pikachu would become instantly (albeit briefly) synonymous with the brand. Comedy wise, it’s the equivalent of a clown honking his nose and then bursting into tears. There aren’t any funny moments to be found within Detective Pikachu, unless you find the grating presence of Reynolds to be anything remotely funny. His seemingly improvised, self-referential humour that pads out the running times of Deadpool and The Hitman’s Bodyguard are essentially scripted to the letter in his animated presence here.
I will give Reynolds one credit, that it is his face that sells his style of comedy. Although the aforementioned Deadpool and The Hitman’s Bodyguard are as rewarding as drinking a litre of paint thinner, he is able to sell his comedy to a wide market through visuals alone. His personality is by far his strongest point, and that is stripped away entirely when he’s hidden behind the unarguably incredible CGI of everyone’s favourite Pokémon, Pikachu.
Visuals are the films strongest suit, a colourful endeavour that looks to feature as many of the fan favourite set pieces as it can. That is unfortunately the biggest downfall too, with the call-backs to previous instalments into the canon of Pokémon overriding any chance of originality. None of the supporting performances really inspire anything incredible either, with Bill Nighy of all people appearing alongside Ken Watanabe. Two greatly accomplished actors that have provided some excellent roles, but here they feel wasted entirely.
The lore of Pokémon, I had thought, was always very simple. You’d run around trapping small woodland creatures in balls, lobbing them at bigger and bigger opponents until eventually you were crowned the champion of fitting large animals in smaller balls. By that very definition, Detective Pikachu features nothing of the sort. It’s a shoddy murder mystery piece that just so happens to be contained in a universe where Pokémon exist. The film can’t help itself when it brings us a visual can-can of memorable and old-school Pokémon characters. It files them out one at a time, pointing them out as some form of rare sighting, and then it’s back to the drab and unoriginal storyline.
If you want your fix of nostalgia, by all means go into Detective Pikachu with the sole purpose of seeing what your favourite Pokemon would look like on the big screen. That’s all it’s worth to be honest, and if you’ve ever played a Pokemon videogame or glanced at what potentially looks like a Pokemon, you’ve basically seen Detective Pikachu. A disgusting attempt at clattering nostalgia into the box office, making a pretty penny from deluded fans that are inherently defending this solely due to the inclusion of a yellow fluff ball that can shoot lightning out of its ears.