30 Movies in 30 Days: Detective Pikachu

Anne’s Note: Surprise! I know it feels like I JUST finished a daily blogging challenge (at least it does to me) but I’m right back at you with another one! This one’s considerably shorter and less formal. Not as many rules as the previous version of 30 Movies in 30 Days that I did in June 2018, just a movie and a blog post about it everyday. Perhaps what’s more exciting, this year features a willing sucker I mean partner in the form of my friend Jess. She’s been a collaborator on a couple other posts, and she’s a lot like me in many ways but much, much smarter. You can find her movie blog, Depressive Episodes here.

Had I seen it before: No. I meant to see it in theaters, and I meant to see it after it came to HBO a while ago, but I finally got to it now.

Year: 2019

Director: Rob Letterman

Writers: Dan Hernandez (screenplay & story), Benjit Samit (screenplay and story), Rob Letterman (screenplay), Derek Connolly (screenplay), and Nicole Perlman (story). Based on the Pokémon and Detective Pikachu video games.

Where you can stream it now: HBO

What IMDb says: In a world where people collect Pokémon to do battle, a boy comes across an intelligent talking Pikachu who seeks to be a detective.

Why I picked it: This movie looked like a lot of fun ever since the trailers dropped. Several friends who are far more involved with Pokemon than I am heavily endorsed it. It was long overdue that I see it.

What I liked: As expected, this movie is in fact a lot of fun. Ryan Reynolds delivers a perfect performance as Pikachu, coming off as both endearing and snarky at the same time. It’s so weird to think of a live actor and an animated character having great chemistry together, but that’s what we have here. The best parts of this movie are when we get to see Tim and Pikachu just playing off each other while they explore Ryme City together.

The city in and of itself is also one of my favorite parts. You just get the sense that this movie was made by people who genuinely love Pokemon and you can feel their passion for this world radiating off the screen. This isn’t the pokémon paradigm I was familiar with from the video games, but that’s a strength when it could’ve easily been a weakness. They work a lot of different pokémon into it in fun, interesting ways. For example, there’s a night club scene where Loudred is working as a loudspeaker for music produced by human DJs. Stuff like this makes Ryme City a human world I can easily relate to. At the same time, they’re still embracing all the fantasy elements that make pokémon fun in the first place.

What I didn’t like: There’s a great world and great characters, but the plot of this was a little too convoluted for its own good. Again, I loved the scenes that are essentially just Tim and Pikachu exploring Ryme City. There was a sharp decline in my interest as soon as they zeroed in on actually solving a mystery. That’s a bit of a shame considering the word “detective” is in the name of the movie. A more simplified, streamlined plot would’ve left more room for the movie to maintain the fun dynamic it established in the beginning. Instead, it dives into a maze of twists and turns that feel incredibly unnecessary for a movie that still feels rather predictable.

By the end, it felt like the story was intent on making a sharp left turn every five minutes. Unfortunately once this happens I don’t really feel like the relationships between Pikachu, Tim, and Lucy are developing in a natural way as well as they might have with a simpler story. Maybe this feeling will go away on future watches when I don’t feel like I’m struggling so hard just to keep up with the plot, but on first watch it was a bit jarring.

Will I watch it again: Possibly. I definitely underestimated how much mental energy it would take to keep up with the plot in the back half of the movie. I’m curious to see if re-watching where I know what to expect makes for a better experience. But is it something I’m going to be in a big hurry to rewatch? Probably not.

Who would enjoy it: People who grew up with the Pokémon games and/or TV Show will probably get the most out of this, but I can see a lot of silly comedy fans outside that group still enjoying it. It would also make an especially good quarantine movie as it’s appropriate for children while still being enjoyable for adults.

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