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MOVIE REVIEW

Pokémon Detective Pikachu

also known as “Detective Pikachu,” “Meitantei Pikachu,” “Pokémon - Pikachu, a detektív,” “Pokémon Dedektif Pikachu,” “Pokémon Detective Pikachu,” “Pokemon Detektiv Pikaču,” See more »
MPAA Rating: PG-Rating (MPAA) for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, and thematic elements.

Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Kids • Preteens • Teens • Family
Genre:
Live-Action Animation Action Adventure Family Fantasy Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 44 min.
Year of Release:
2019
USA Release:
May 10, 2019 (wide—4,100+ theaters)
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures

Importance of fathers being there for their children (especially in tough times)

Dangers of fathers becoming obsessed with their work

Building a better father son relationship

Family Answers HOME page
Parenting and Family Questions and Answers

Value of true friendship

Teamwork

Self-sacrifice

Caring for others

Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens! Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Featuring: Ryan ReynoldsDetective Pikachu (voice)
Justice SmithTim Goodman
Kathryn NewtonLucy Stevens
Bill NighyHoward Clifford
Ken WatanabeLieutenant Hide Yoshida
Chris GeereRoger Clifford
Suki WaterhouseMs. Norman
Josette Simon … Grams
Alejandro De Mesa … Bartender
Rita Ora … Dr. Ann Laurent
Karan Soni … Jack
See all »
Director: Rob Letterman—“Gulliver's Travels” (2010), “Monsters vs. Aliens” (2009), “Shark Tale” (2004), “Goosebumps”
Producer: Legendary Entertainment
The Pokemon Company [Japan]
See all »
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Gotta catch ‘em all!

U

pon hearing the news of his father’s death, Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) heads to Ryme City to try and gather his belongings. When he arrives, Tim stumbles upon his father’s partner Pokémon, a Pikachu (voice of Ryan Reynolds). Of course, this Pokémon being able to talk isn’t the only mystery here that’s boggling everyone. Apparently there’s this spray that’s causing other Pokémon to go berserk.

But wait, that’s not all. Now there are clues adding up to the possibility that Tim’s father is… alive? It looks like a bunch of mysteries that only Tim and his newfound friend can try to solve. It’s bound to be very “twisty”!

Entertainment Quality

Yes, this movie is a lot of fun. The director and writers really worked hard to remain faithful to the Pokémon video games and TV show. It honestly does feel like you are stepping into one of the games or episodes of the show. The visual effects and production design are oftentimes terrific. Also, I was really impressed by the design of the Pokémon themselves. At least mostly, they stay faithful to their designs in the games (only Gengar seemed to be a bit off, though that’s just me nitpicking).

The script is also surprisingly heartfelt. This isn’t just a visual effects fantasy. Tim’s character is given a believable and very convincing backstory. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t excited about the idea of a talking Pikachu. However, without spoiling anything, I will say there is an understandable (and maybe a bit clever) reason behind it. There’s also a couple of lightly mature themes in the mix that come into play.

The film never drags or outstays its welcome. It paces very breezily through its 95-minute runtime.

Speaking of Tim, Smith gives a very nice performance here. He’s given some genuinely emotional moments. I was pleasantly surprised with Ryan Reynolds’ voicing Pikachu. Yes, he gives the sassy and at times anticlimactic sense of humor that he’s known for. But he also provides some genuine heart as well, an achievement that I’m not sure I could see any other actor pull off.

I thought Bill Nighy was very underused here. His character really isn’t given enough to do to sell what is going on with him.

The humor doesn’t always hit, but there are a handful of genuine laughs to be found. There are plenty of great references to the games, the TV show, and even the first theatrical movie released in 1999 (many fans will spot these pretty easily).

Considering that this movie is aimed at kids, I do think the overall story is a bit too complex and sophisticated. It’s not very easy to follow at times. And, when the story starts to get a bit off the rails, it sometimes resorts to unnecessary exposition.

Positive Messages

There’s a solid underlying message on the importance of fathers being there for their children (especially in tough times). We see that in Tim’s situation, as well as another character. We see the dangers of two father characters becoming obsessed with their work. For one of them, he and his son drift apart, and it causes emotional turmoil. The other father becomes so obsessed with his work that he goes absolutely insane, causing a lot of familial conflict.

We notice that an absent parental figure leads to pain and sorrow in both cases. God clearly illustrates expectations for fathers and parents in general in Proverbs 22.

“Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” —Proverbs 22:6

True friendship and teamwork are praised many times. Pikachu worries at one point that he “pushes away those he tries to help.” Yet, Tim looks out for him and comes to appreciate and care for the creature. Tim, Pikachu and a friendly reporter risk their lives and safety to save the city.

Negative Content

Violence: There are a handful of somewhat intense action scenes. The one scene that pushes the PG-rating a bit is when a massive earthquake causes the land to crack and move around violently. Characters and trees fall. There’s also an underground Pokémon battle which has a Charizard spewing flames repeatedly at Pikachu. An ending action scene has Pikachu electrocuting another Pokémon and having parade balloons split apart and explode. Glass widows break. A few characters fall from perilous heights. A group of Aipoms (monkey Pokémon) chase after Tim and nearly rat him out. We witness an explosions at a lab (once in flashback), as well as a car accident (similarly). The car is blown off a bridge and flips over. We see the after-effects with the flaming car and debris everywhere. A purple gas causes Pokémon to go crazy and cause property damage.

Language: Toward the beginning of the film, Tim comes across an old detective movie on TV. Before he turns it off, a character says, “What the h***?!” Elsewhere, Pikachu (unfortunately) blurts out “h***” and “d***” (one time each). And, in a tense situation, Pikachu also spits out, “Oh, g**!” multiple times. Also included are “Jeez,” “sweet mother of Mary” and “good god.”

Adult Content: A shirtless, tattooed man is shown at one point. Elsewhere, Tim’s pants are yanked off by a group of Pokémon (showing him in boxers, with Pikachu joking about his increasing “nudeness”). Elsewhere, there’s a running gag about someone feeling it in their “jellies” about a conviction. Pikachu also says, “I don’t invite anyone to my apartment; I’m not that kind of Pokémon!” Tim says, “I’m pretty good at being alone at night,” after a girl seems to suggest she doesn’t want him to be alone.

Drugs/Alcohol: As I mentioned earlier, a purple gas tends to cause Pokémon to go into a rage. Someone makes a comment that they inhaled the purple gas “up their nose,” which may come across as a wink to snorting. Pikachu drinks a lot of coffee, and Tim jokes that he’s “addicted to caffeine.”

Other: There are brief jokes about someone’s mother’s birth canal, someone “peeing himself,” and “silent but deadly.” Characters manipulate each other, and Pokémon are both manipulated and their powers tested.

Those who are aware of the game and characters know that Pokémon each have different powers (including healing), and are also capable of “evolving” into higher forms. However, the source of their powers is not explained. Meanwhile, the “evolution” of Pokémon doesn’t really resemble Darwin’s teachings (for example: Caterpie, a caterpillar Pokémon, has two later stages that resemble a cocoon and butterfly, just like caterpillars in real life).

***SPOILER (mild)*** The villain is convinced that humans can also “evolve” into better versions of themselves, if they can live in harmony with Pokémon. We later find out that he is trying to merge humans and Pokémon to fulfill “Evolutionary potential”. However, his real reason is to try and set him free from his own physical disability. ***END SPOILER***

Conclusions

I first got into Pokémon when I was in 5th grade, and became pretty hooked. I watched the late-90’s version of the cartoon and also played a handful of the games for the DS and Nintendo Wii. Occasionally I revisit the old cartoon today, as the original Kanto region and 150 Pokémon definitely played a part in my tween and early teen years.

Considering this decade has been full of nostalgia trips and remakes for 90’s kids, it seemed like only a matter of time before this cultural phenomenon would be adapted for a live-action film. As the film was coming together, I felt a sense of excitement and dread. Could Pokémon actually work as a live-action movie? Does allowing one to talk (though some may argue that Meowth was allowed to in the cartoon) ruin everything?

Surprisingly, I had a blast with “Detective Pikachu.” Rob Letterman and his crew did a fantastic job remaining faithful to the source material. And while it isn’t a perfect film, it has a pretty good story and a couple of good characters at its center. Yes, even Ryan Reynolds manages to fit in this universe.

Some Christians have found Pokémon to be offensive. And the truth is, everyone interprets things differently. Some have interpreted Poké-balls to be talismans that summon demons, with some Evolution thrown in. I’ve always thought of Pokémon and their abilities as leaning more towards science fiction and comic book superpowers than the spiritual or demonic. There are a few “Ghost types,” but no explanation is given for how they exist.

Of course, if your family does not have peace with Pokémon, then by all means, don’t go see this film. And parents of older kids should be aware of a few other problems, as well. Pikachu isn’t quite as clean as he is in the cartoon. He cusses a couple of times, throws in a couple of innuendos for the adults, and also provides a couple of eye-rolling bathroom jokes for the kids. These moments are mostly brief and fleeting. Meanwhile, the action violence (while largely in PG territory) is a little intense at times, too.

However, fans of the franchise will have a lot of fun with this movie. And, in the meantime, “Detective Pikachu” is a miles cleaner and less intense ride than many of the superhero and fantasy films dominating multiplexes nowadays. And that is definitely a good thing.

  • Violence: Moderate
  • Profane language: Mild
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Mild
  • Occult: Mild
  • Nudity: Minor
  • Sex: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


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Secular Movie Critics
…Not long into “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu,” it becomes clear that the movie is never going to make what you might call sense…
Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News
…the main problem is that the film’s gumball-mayhem plot is so frenetic that it’s impossible to determine if it makes a lick of sense…
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
…An aggressively cute family film that’s also a spectacle-driven sci-fi noir-mystery with hints of “Blade Runner” and the third act of every Marvel movie, this adaptation…throws everything at the audience with such vehemence that the sum effect is overwhelming more than it is entertaining…
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
…Overlong set-piece action scenes pitched in the key of chaos, full of running and screaming and a whole lot of falling down, ultimately turn “Pikachu” into a wearying slog…
Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times
…unrelentingly weird. …it’s also breezily watchable, if slightly insubstantial beyond its strangeness…
Daniel Kaszor, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
…Effects aside, irrespective of Reynolds, Pokémon is what Pokémon has always been on the big screen—pablum. …
Roger Moore, Movie Nation
…the imagery lacks weight and texture… This is 1 hour and 44 minutes of Pikachu short-circuiting your brain. …
Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times
…doesn’t allow nearly enough Pokémon-related action, while the quality of the computer animation…falls far short of the basic level of competency audiences have come to expect from effects movies…
Peter Debruge, Variety
…The film’s plot is either too much or too little, but whatever you decide, it’s best to give up on any expectations of true logic and just go with the flow… It’s Pokémania…
Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle