DETECTIVE PIKACHU is out in theaters and some are pretty surprised by its success. Historically, video game film adaptations don’t do well. So what makes DETECTIVE PIKACHU so appealing? Let’s look at the different levels (evolutions?) of entertainment it brings to the table in our DETECTIVE PIKACHU review.

It’s Got Pokémon…Duh

As many know, the Pokémon franchise is massive with one of the biggest fan bases of all time. It’s one of the highest-grossing media franchises ever. It’s the highest-grossing video game series, a toy brand, and a trading card game of all time. Basically: it’s huge. Why wouldn’t a studio want to go the live-action route and cash in on such a lucrative IP?

DETECTIVE PIKACHU is by no means conservative with how many live-action depictions of Pokémon the audience sees in the film. There are Pokémon everywhere in all shapes, sizes, types, and evolutions. Furthermore, the Pokémon featured come from all generations. That means there’s Charmander, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and plenty more from the original 151 that I and many others know and love, as well as ones from more recent generations that die-hard fans and younger audience members know and love. But that’s right, there is the beauty of Pokémon and by extension, this film: It caters to a wide variety of fans, both young and old, casual and hard-core.

DETECTIVE PIKACHU Review
Image from Legendary Pictures

Someone who knows every Pokémon by heart will love this film just as much as someone who just thinks Pikachu is cute. Why? DETECTIVE PIKACHU goes beyond just big-IP cash in. If it was, it probably wouldn’t have been as successful. No, this film goes beyond and offers more than just a bunch of live-action pocket monsters on a big screen.

DETECTIVE PIKACHU Review: Ryan Reynolds Brings Epic Humor

One of those that goes beyond the elements I’m talking about in this DETECTIVE PIKACHU review is the addition of actor Ryan Reynolds. He supplies the voice for the titular Pikachu that works with the human protagonist Tim Goodman (Justice Smith). It’s a pretty unique role, and Reynolds excels at depicting a sarcastic, determined, sleuthing Pokémon with a significant coffee addiction.

DETECTIVE PIKACHU Review
Image from Legendary Pictures

Seeing a Pikachu talk and acting with that Reynolds flair is a hilarious sight to behold. I knew that DETECTIVE PIKACHU has humor, but I was very surprised to see how much there was with some incredibly funny scenes. You can tell that Reynolds was given quite a bit of freedom to improvise with the jokes and one-liners, resulting in some pretty great scenes that got the whole audience laughing. If you’re a fan of Ryan Reynolds and his humor, you’re going to love DETECTIVE PIKACHU.

It’s Got A Mystery To Be Solved… By An Electric Mouse

Not only does DETECTIVE PIKACHU have a bunch of Pokémon and Ryan Reynolds to draw audiences, but it goes further by having some pretty solid mystery elements to its plot. There’s a case to be solved: Detective Harry Goodman is missing, and his Pikachu, who has no memory of what happened, convinces his son Tim to help him find out what happened after they discover that they can understand each other.

DETECTIVE PIKACHU Review
Image from Legendary Pictures

Together they look for witnesses, follow leads, and Pikachu even creates a web of clues with threads and push pins. The detective genre is a surprising framework to have for our first venture into what a live-action Pokémon film could be. However, in hindsight, it does work well. Yes, it is based off the DETECTIVE PIKACHU video game, but it’s still a pretty strong curveball none the less.

DETECTIVE PIKACHU Review
Image from Legendary Pictures

To go further with this element of our DETECTIVE PIKACHU review, the humor does often create a satire on the detective drama. The traditional informant meeting from opposing booths is noted as weird and awkward. A secret file drops during the handoff and its contents spill everywhere. Shaking down a witness becomes comical when your witness is a Mr. Mime. And of course, there’s the obvious one with Pikachu wearing the classic detective’s deer stalker hat. There are plenty of references and homages to all those classic detective film tropes that make this film pretty fun. They even play the fake detective movie ANGELS WITH FILTHY SOULS from HOME ALONE in the background of one scene.

DETECTIVE PIKACHU Review: Some Drawbacks

I would say that as the plot nears its climax, and the antagonists’ plot becomes clear, it comes off kind of weird. Tim’s father’s disappearance and the journey to find him is cool and interesting. However, the why and how is kind of odd. It’s sort of simple and two dimensional. Even weirder is that the plan involves Mewtwo, one of the most interesting and powerful Pokémon ever. While that’s super cool, I can’t help but feel that there could have been much more interesting routes to go with.

DETECTIVE PIKACHU Review
Image from Legendary Pictures

Now, I don’t think that it makes or breaks the movie in my opinion. There are plenty of other elements that the film brings to the table that make it worthwhile. However, for our DETECTIVE PIKACHU review, I feel as though it is worth mentioning. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not you like the revealed plan or not.

DETECTIVE PIKACHU Review Conclusion: Wonderfully Wacky Mass Appeal

All in all, I found DETECTIVE PIKACHU to be highly entertaining, going beyond the basic and expected conventions of a video game film adaptation. It’s bigger than a simple IP cash grab. You see a desire to go beyond on the studio and director’s part, looking to exceed said expectations in order to appeal to a wider audience, not just Pokémon fans. It has some great humor, some cool detective elements alongside detective satire, and yeah: a ton of awesome live-action Pokémon. DETECTIVE PIKACHU caters to a wide variety of moviegoers, so go see it! There will probably be more to follow in the coming years, perhaps even a whole cinematic universe? We’ll see.

Score: 8.5/10

DETECTIVE PIKACHU is now in theaters.

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