In the world of the Pokémon franchise, you gotta "catch em' all," and that seems to be the rubric for critics when it comes to Detective Pikachu. Instead of focusing on catching furry pocket monsters, reviewers were interested in catching crucial emotional and story beats within the movie, which opens next Friday, May 10.
So, how does the first-ever live-action Pokémon film stack up? Reviews are pouring in after the yellow carpet premiere in NYC last night and while critics are certainly mixed, none can deny the major feat the movie accomplishes of bringing the furry (and sometimes ghastly — pun intended) creatures into our flesh and blood reality. That's something fans of the brand, both casual and die-hard, have always imagined since the Red and Blue games first debuted for the Game Boy in the 1990s.
Critics are also enamored with Ryan Reynolds, who lends his voice to the over caffeinated Sherlockian hero, who stands about two feet tall. All the reviews seem to say the Deadpool stars imbues the role with some much needed (as Aladdin's Genie would say) punch and pizzazz. And despite some glaring story issues, few can deny the joyous heart and appreciation the feature has for its source material.
Directed by Rob Letterman (Goosebumps), Detective Pikachu follows Tim Goodman (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom's Justice Smith), a once-hopeful trainer, who's long since given up on his dreams. Nevertheless, he's dragged back into that world when he joins forces with a talking Pikachu, who wants to track down Tim's missing father. What ensues is a hardboiled neo-noir mystery in the vein of 1988's Roger Rabbit.
Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy, Kathryn Newton, and Suki Waterhouse all co-star.
Find out what critics have been saying below...
"Providing a sturdy throughline is Reynolds, who imbues his world-weary Pikachu with the right balance of pith and pathos, while Justice does justice to his necessarily reactive performance, proving adept at both tears and pratfalls. Credit production designer Nigel Phelps and visual effects outfits Moving Picture Company and Framestore for taking it into FX overdrive, most notably a ground-breaking (literally) set-piece shot in Scotland, involving computer-controlled hydraulic rams covered with soil and foliage. Try finding that on Pokemon GO!" -Michael Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter
"Detective Pikachu nicely blends live-action elements with the computer-generated Pokemon. There’s seamless interaction between Tim and Pikachu, and there’s a fun symbiosis created between other humans and their oddball Pokemon partners, like Lucy and her very weird Psyduck or Detective Yoshida (Ken Watanabe) and his canine Snubbull. The story, however, is pretty convoluted and predictable – albeit with one nice twist at the end but misses the chance to be a really fun adventure with an unlikely gumshoe." -Brian Truitt, USA Today
"Detective Pikachu doesn’t share the same burden that weighs down so many adaptations, whether that’s video game or anime ... the smartest thing Legendary Pictures did with Detective Pikachu was to not adapt Red and Blue — or any mainline Pokémon game or the long-running anime. The expectations would be too high and inevitably end in tears. Instead, by starting with a spin-off, the filmmakers were able to adeptly sidestep those expectations for how characters should talk, look and dress, giving room for the actors to bring them to life." -Brian Ashcraft, Kotaku
"As the wisecracking voice of Pikachu, Ryan Reynolds deserves some sort of special citation for doing the best he can without Deadpool’s f-bombs (or a decent script) to lean on. But 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. Maybe that was the point." -Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
"But in the effort to define Pokémon by something other than their ability to be cute, weird game devices, director Rob Letterman and the film’s five-man story and writing team pull off an undeniably magical feat. Detective Pikachu is the first post-Pokémon movie. It recognizes that people know who Pikachu is, what a Pokémon battle consists of, and how humans interact with their pocket-monster pals. That lets Pokémon exist in the movie’s background, making that existence unremarkable in the process." -Julia Alexander, The Verge
"It’s not the worst idea, and the CGI that enliven this wild world of people and Pokémon is nothing short of awe-inspiring. But no amount of technical polish can detract from a thin narrative that confuses far more than it amuses. Even worse: Every good joke has already been splashed across the film’s many (quite amusing) trailers. For a film that should surprise and delight at every turn, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is clunkier and more confusing than a film about adorable creatures has any right to be." -Kate Erbland, IndieWire
"In a way, there is still something appealing about this movie … at least visually. Now, this is a bad way to enjoy a movie, but if you’ve just always wanted to see an on-screen visualization of what it might look like if Pokémon were real – you know, you’re walking down the street and there’s a Snorlax just sitting there taking a nap – then there’s certainly a lot to look at here. And that’s not a dig, I did find myself enjoying just watching this world unfold, looking for all the different Pokémon hanging out in the background. (And there are a lot of them.) Unfortunately, this movie’s plot is, let’s say, suspect. Detective Pikachu is one of those movies where, for about half the movie, I was trying to force myself to like it, until I just gave up." -Mike Rayn, Uproxx
"In the end, if Detective Pikachu is going to make the case that each human is destined to pair with a single Pokémon — a kind of spirit-animal monogamy that contradicts the 'Gotta catch ’em all' attitude that’s come before — then at least Tim and Pikachu should have some kind of chemistry. But Smith (who generally comes off sour and stressed out) isn’t anywhere near as affable as Ash Ketchum was in the cartoons, and the movie’s final reveal confuses what kind of relationship he’s supposed to have with Pikachu going forward." -Peter Debruge, Variety
"Pokemon: Detective Pikachu is an utterly bonkers roller-coaster ride where a chatty CGI electric mouse teams up with real people to solve a mystery. And it's easily the greatest video game movie ever made ... Pokemon: Detective Pikachu manages to walk the tightrope of appealing to fans who know their Snorlax from their Gengar, young kids they want to make into fans and those people who've never caught much more than a cold." -Sean Keane, Cnet
"Detective Pikachu would’ve worked better if its narrative had existed mostly to build out the world in which it takes place. The Pokémon we do see are well translated, however ... for longtime fans of the series, the CG figures that populate the background of Detective Pikachu can often feel repetitive. There are 809 Pokémon currently in canon, and [the film] doesn’t quite succeed at the admittedly monumental task of making me feel that number." -Johnnie JungleGuts, TheWrap
"It’s in this arc in particular that Detective Pikachu’s earnest joy for Pokémon as a concept shines on full display, in part because the film’s crazy world is incredibly and lovingly crafted. And not just from a technical level, as it jam packs the screen with oodles of furry, scaley, sometimes very gross-looking realistic renditions of Pokémon from across the entire franchise ... But it’s also down to the fact that the movie comes from a place of great love and understanding for the simple joy of what Pokémon represents." -James Whitbrook, Gizmodo
"Detective Pikachu is a bizarrely successful enterprise on multiple levels. It's both a triumph of character animation—one of the most stylish combinations of animation and live action in years—and a sweet story that doesn't reach too hard to seem au courant and is in keeping with the Pokémon franchise. On a more cynical note, it should do a pretty good job at selling a bunch of toys and video games and shepherding the craze to another generation." -Esther Zuckerman, Thrillist