wed 20/11/2019

Pokémon Detective Pikachu review - a cute commercial | reviews, news & interviews

Pokémon Detective Pikachu review - a cute commercial

Pokémon Detective Pikachu review - a cute commercial

Pokémon meets the relatively real world, and hits its limits

Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) takes the casePhotos courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

This is the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? of the Pokémon franchise, bringing the video game’s cute critters into a live-action, film noir world, as Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) turns Holmes-hatted detective to help teenage human Tim (Justice Smith) find his apparently murdered dad. Their quest takes them through Ryme City, a utopia where Pokémon and people exist in perfect harmony, thanks to the beneficence of corporate chief Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy, whose Blofeld-like cat makes you doubt his motives early). The ensuing fight against corporate corruption of Pokémon-human relations is helped by plucky young reporter Lucy (Kathryn Newton, pictured below with Smith). As corporate hard sell for Pokémon video games is this film’s sole purpose, the satire somewhat struggles.

Tim had father issues even before his legendary police detective dad careened off the road, in a prologue at the Pokémon Genetic Research Facility with the shadowy feel of a Seventies conspiracy thriller. Interrupted at a Pokémon hunt (slightly less brutal than it sounds) by news of the death, Tim travels to Ryme City, where world cultures intermingle as casually as people and Pokémon, yellow New York cabs jostling with red London buses. The city remains as essentially Japanese as the cameoing Ken Watanabe, and Pokémon itself.

Kathryn Newton, Justice Smith and friends in Pokemon Detective PikachuThe film lacks any of Roger Rabbit’s human-animation, inter-reality frisson. It takes place in a golden, soft-focus glow reminiscent of Spielberg in the 1980s, minus the magic; the comforting opposite of the noirs and conspiracy flicks it references. Smith and Newton have innocent charm as the young leads, in a resolutely pure kids’ film. Ryan Reynolds’ wiseacre chatter as he voices the Pokémon gumshoe stays high-voiced and harmless, diluting his Deadpool persona for juvenile consumption. Knowing references to sex and drugs are minor and mild, not relentlessly aimed over children’s heads at paying adults.

Then again, the nostalgic twenty- and thirtysomethings who fell in love with Pokémon in the Nineties, and the more recent addicts who walked the streets enslaved by Pokémon Go, are Pikachu’s real audience, just as happy in this bright, soft-edged play-world as current children entranced by the creatures’ cuteness.

Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) in Pokemon Detective PikachuThose adults hard-wired by thousands of hours capering with Pokémon were in transports of delight at the screening I attended, suggesting this migration as close to the real world as the critters can get may revive this sputtering film franchise. But as the Pokémon battles become interminable, there’s no depth here for outsiders. Among the fantasy behemoths which have consumed cinema-going, only Marvel had the patience, and almost bottomless raw material, to build an emotionally affecting mythology. The behavioural data harvested by Pokémon Go is this likeable film’s secret soul.

There are two moments of captivating imagination. Pikachu’s interrogation of a Pokémon who communicates only in mime is almost worthy of the Marx Brothers. The sudden, sliding collapse of a whole hillside, and its reconfiguring as a row of giant turtles, has the vertiginous effect of Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Pikachu’s hologram flashbacks to imperishable, buried memories have also strayed in from some phantom, Philip K. Dick-scripted Pokémon film. Then it goes back to subliminally selling you games, and it all seems a bit offensive. 

The behavioural data harvested by Pokémon Go is this likeable film’s secret soul

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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