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If Pokemon really existed, as shown,
Which creature would you want to claim as your own?

A friendly Charmander with flame on its tail?
A giant Wailord? (Let’s be real: it’s a whale.)

A psychic Kadabra to bend all your spoons?
Or maybe some ghostly balloon-like Drifloons?

If you’ve a green thumb, then Sunflora earns smiles,
And Ursaring’s cute…when they’re still juveniles.

I’d love a Sandslash to dig holes with aplomb,
But perhaps you’d prefer the more handy Aipom?

A Seel or a Spheal would be (honestly) cool,
But know that for water types, you’ll need a pool.

If you need sleep, Jigglypuff’s known for its pipes,
And Eevee has options for multiple types.

Oh, come now, you must want at least one of these?
Arcanines? Kirlias? Sweet Caterpies?

What’s that? You say none of these names ring a bell?
You only know Pikachu then? Very well,
I shouldn’t be “shocked” since that mouse sure can sell.
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MPAA rating:  PG

Who would have thought that a live-action Pokémon movie would be the first film based on a video game to be deemed “Fresh” by Rotten Tomatoes, even if it is only at 67%? There was something about the trailers for this movie that strangely fascinated me. I don’t know if it was the faithfully rendered CGI pocket monsters or the casting of Ryan Reynolds as a talking Pikachu or just the inclusion of “Holding Out for a Hero,” since I love that song. But whatever it was, I had unusually high hopes for Detective Pikachu, and thankfully it did not disappoint this nostalgic fan.

While I was once an avid Pokémon player, I never played the Detective Pikachu spinoff game, so I didn’t have any preconceptions about the plot.  Justice Smith of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Paper Towns (remember the Pokémon scene?) plays Tim Goodman, a young man with no interest in Pokémon who is nonetheless drawn into a mystery involving the powerful Mewtwo, his missing father, and his dad’s mysteriously talkative Pikachu. Plotwise, it’s nothing groundbreaking, but the mystery had enough twists and turns to be engaging and even some decent heart by the end. All the actors, from Bill Nighy as a wealthy industrialist to Kathryn Newton as an intrepid reporter named Lucy, give their utmost to the sometimes hammy proceedings, but Reynolds is clearly the source of star power, making the most of the script’s funny double entendres (aside from an eye-rollingly dumb gag about climate change).

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I find it funny that there was such backlash against the “creepy” look of the live-action-ish Pokémon, because the effects are top-notch. It’s not easy for creatures with otherworldly powers and body proportions to look ostensibly real, but the effects team did an excellent job at bringing the 2D characters into furry, feathery, scaly life, as well as integrating them with the actual live-action characters and action scenes. It didn’t take long to get used to the visual style, making it just one of the film’s strengths. (On a side note, I was delighted that Kygo and Rita Ora contributed the song “Carry On,” which deserves placement in my End Credits Song Hall of Fame. Boy, that list needs some updating.)

The story doesn’t dwell on the whole “gotta catch ‘em all” motif, instead setting the action in a metropolis of peaceful coexistence, not unlike Zootopia. While the creatures are commonplace and treated as both partners and near-sentient wildlife, I wish there were even more of them on display. I fell away from the franchise after Generation IV, and with the mix of newer and older Pokémon featured, I’ll admit there were several I didn’t recognize. Yet, there were also plenty of originals for us original fans, from Charizard to Psyduck to an evolving Eevee (even the original Pokémon theme song too), so I commend the filmmakers for their equitable fan service.

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I doubt those with no history with the Pokémon franchise will enjoy this movie as much as I did, but there’s still enough fun and creature cuteness/coolness to appeal to everyone on some level. And if I’d seen this as a kid, I would absolutely love it to pieces! As it is, Detective Pikachu proved to be a thoroughly endearing piece of effects-heavy family fun, especially for those who were ever in its target demographic. Luckily, that includes me.

Best line: (Lucy, describing a potential lead) “Down by the docks. Rough part of town, not the sorta place you wanna visit alone at night.”   (Tim, trying to impress her) “Well, I’m actually pretty good at being alone at night.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up (could go up with future watches)

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
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