It’s got an adorable hero from an iconic media brand who is voiced by a proven box office master at snark. But, somehow, “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” never really gets arresting.
A neutered Ryan Reynolds tries hard, but can’t make this live action-meets-animated movie gel. It’s plodding and listless and really not funny or smart enough. Turns out, you can’t copy “Deadpool” tricks for the PG set.
“Pokémon Detective Pikachu “ borrows lightly from film noir crime dramas to create a mystery in a world where humans and Pokémon co-exist. A young man called Tim Goodman (the terrific Justice Smith) joins with Pikachu (Reynolds’ voice) to search for what happened to the man’s father, a missing detective. The movie’s best moments are those between the scenes, where the Japan-born creatures thrillingly share the same urban space as humans.
Smith is very appealing as a son coming to grips with the loss of his estranged father, but Reynolds, as a cute coffee-guzzling detective with a Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker cap, ping-pongs from heartfelt to caustic uneasily and tries to mimic his best-known, fourth-wall breaking “Deadpool” movie character (“That’s a twist. Very twisty,” he says of one plot point.) It’s the most mismatched buddy flick since Will Smith teamed up with an Orc for “Bright.”
The film starts slowly, builds to a sort of plateau and then ends with the final third consisting of nonstop action sequences and an underwhelming conclusion. Ken Watanabe is underused as a police chief. Equally inexplicably, Suki Waterhouse gets credit for a role in which she never speaks and lasts about 15 seconds onscreen.
Speaking of speaking, you’re probably wondering why there’s any dialogue between the adorable pocket monsters and humans since Pokémon traditionally only just say their own names. Enter five screenwriters — Rob Letterman, Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Derek Connolly and Nicole Perlman. Their solution is a weird gas that makes everyone crazy but somehow allows Tim to communicate with Pikachu. Sure, gas.
Live-action feature film adaptations of video games have proved a dicey proposition in the past. For every “Mortal Kombat” there’s a “Prince of Persia.” This one just feels like a venal money grab from a mega corporation. You’ve played Pokémon Go, right? Call this one Pokémon Don’t Go.