FILM REVIEW: POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU is this generation’s answer to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?


With a generation weaned on the cartoons and various video and trading card games featuring Pokemon, their first live-action film appearance transcends their mythology in a noir-inspired mystery that engages non-fans and fans alike.

There’s something to be said when you can translate a property from multiple mediums of animation and gaming aimed at children into one that has universal appeal in an approachable story. That’s the battle that Pokemon Detective Pikachu takes head-on in translating The Pokemon Company’s popular series of animated shows, video games, and trading card property to a big screen film that can translate beyond the series’ core audience into a broad mainstream film audience. Thankfully, the film accomplishes this heady task by taking the tack of films like Space Jam and Who Framed Roger Rabbit and uses the genre to transpose those characters into a relatable tale. Much like Roger Rabbit, Pokemon Detective Pikachu uses the age-old noir detective genre to guide us into solving a mystery populated with characters from the Pokemon IP, so while parents and older viewers get invested in the film’s plot, there’s plenty of eye candy and cameos to keep kids interested along the journey.

Pokemon Detective Pikachu largely follows Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) a 21-year-old who travels to Ryme City, a city where Pokemon and humans live in harmony upon hearing the news of the death of his father Harry, a police detective. As Tim explores Harry’s home, he comes across Harry’s partner, a Pikachu who has lost his memory but believes Harry is still alive, voiced by Ryan Reynolds. From there on out, the film follows the conventions of a noir, exploring clues leading to Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), the founder of Ryme City. Clifford and his silent assistant Ms. Norman (The Bad Batch’s Suki Waterhouse) confide to Tim and his Pikachu that they feel Clifford’s son Roger (Chris Geere) has been experimenting on Pokemon and Harry was the victim of one of Roger’s experiments, a genetically engineered pokemon called MewTwo. From there, Tim enlists the help of Roger’s assistant Lucy (Kathryn Newton) and her Psyduck pokemon partner to explore what actually happened to Harry.

The basic structure of the film gives us a window to explore the rich universe of Pokemon characters as an audience new to the phenomenon or a family that is well aware of them. Although the finale does seem a bit cribbed from the 1989 Batman and Roger Rabbit films, it is very engaging and it works as a film. There are many charismatic performances throughout, Justice Smith makes a great protagonist and Ryan Reynolds really does well as Pikachu; it’s not just a cutesy Deadpool as many were afraid it would be and the digital effects bringing the Pokemon to life are truly well-done and immersive. As a children’s film, it has enough to engage adults, including some fun Easter egg references to films like Home Alone that should delight audiences of all ages.