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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

“The Curse of La Llorona” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

The opening moments of “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” feature two young men in a field on the hunt to catch a Pokemon. It’s kind of like the “Pokemon Go” game, only with less risk of getting hit by a car. Plus in this world, the Pokemon are real. One of the young men is played by Karan Soni, and knowing very little about this movie (or the world of Pokemon) I got very excited and said to myself, “No way! Dopinder from the ‘Deadpool’ movies is the star of this show!”

Alas, those hopes were dashed as it’s made abundantly clear that Justice Smith, who plays protagonist Tim Goodman, is the star. Nothing wrong with Smith, he’s a competent enough actor. But he’s no Dopinder, darn it. The point of the aforementioned (failed) attempt to catch the Pokemon is to give Goodman a companion. Everyone else has a Pokemon (dogs and cats are either obsolete or nonexistent in this world) and Goodman’s friend thinks he should have one too. The problem is that the Pokemon has to choose the person as well as the other way around, and Goodman hasn’t found one to choose him yet.

The Pokemon themselves, who I have a cursory familiarity with, are exotic creatures that live in the wild. They come in all shapes and sizes and are very similar to much of the animal wildlife on Earth. I have to give credit to the CGI artists who made the Pokemon all look like an integral part of the world, whether they resemble fish, fowl, or something furry.

While they may be cute, they can also be deadly. Pokemon battle arenas are common place and are where humans can pit their Pokemons against each other. Pokemons usually have derivatively funny names—Magic Carp being my favorite—and special abilities like psychic powers, fire, or electricity. In a lot of ways it becomes like a game of rock, paper, scissors to determine which ability will win out.

But “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” isn’t all funny names and special powers. There is a mystery at its core. Goodman finds himself called to Rhyme City, a very Pokemon-friendly place run by super rich industrialist Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) and his son Roger (Chris Geere), after he finds out about the death of his father in a car accident. Foul play is suspected, and a powerful Pokemon called a Mewtwo (voiced simultaneously by Rina Hoshino and Kotaro Watanabe) may or may not be the culprit. After meeting with the detective in charge of the case (Ken Watanabe) and bumping into a nosy upstart reporter (Kathryn Newton, channeling Kim Cattrall’s journalist from “Big Trouble in Little China”), Goodman teams up with Detective Pikachu (voice of Ryan Reynolds) to solve the mystery.

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The story unfolds at a fairly level pace up to the last half hour, where information comes hurdling at us. The twists and turns are all well and good, but they feel a bit rushed, particularly when there’s also a multi-layered grand finale battle scene involved. Not that the movie should necessarily be any longer than the hour and 44 minutes it already clocks in at (though seven minutes of that are end credits), but the movie would have been better served to get to some of its big revelations a bit sooner, rather than cramming them all in at the end.

Still, the movie looks good and walks the line of putting the heroes in danger without being too scary, so it’s relatively kid friendly, as it should be with creatures this adorable. I have no idea what the long-time Pokemon fandom will think of “Detective Pikachu” since I’m not one. All I can say is that for a casual viewer having my first encounter with the world of Pokemon, I was suitably entertained. Rent it.

Also New This Week

The Curse of La Llorona

I know of La Llorona from Youtube videos. As such, I’m having a hard time deciding if it’s a bonus for Youtube creators or a slam against the movie makers behind “The Curse of La Llorona” that the Youtube videos are way scarier and way more entertaining. It’s probably a bit of both.

For those who don’t habla, “La Llorona” means “the weeping woman.” Case in point is the weeping itself. In “The Curse of La Llorona” it’s more of a sob. I once watched a Youtube video of someone who purportedly recorded the weeping of La Llorona, and it was a very loud, bone-chilling wail. Was it fake? I’m sure it was, but that proves my point even more that the makers of this movie were less creative and less scary than someone who faked footage on Youtube. Whoever did that video (or any number of scarier videos) on Youtube should have directed this movie.

At least they get her legend right, as told by the movie’s exposition spouting priest Father Perez (Tony Amendola), whose character also provides this movie’s link to “Annabelle” and naturally also to the “Conjuring” universe. Everything else is an uninspired, half-hearted rehash of all of the clichés and tropes we’ve seen before in this genre, complete with cheap, telegraphed scares and a rubbery, Halloween make up looking villain (Marisol Ramirez does what she can to seem menacing, but to little affect).

You can also set your watch to Raymond Cruz’s introduction as Rafael Olvera, a man who rambles off pseudo-spiritual nonsense that sounds like he’s making it up on the spot. If you’re actually surprised by his character history as a rogue Catholic priest who left the church to become an exorcist for hire, then I’ll venture that you haven’t seen too many modern ghost movies. But whatever you do, don’t see this one. Skip it.

Batman Hush

“Batman Hush” is less of a Batman adventure and more of a romance. The focus is very much on the relationship between Batman/Bruce Wayne (voice of Jason O'Mara) and Catwoman/Selina Kyle (voice of Jennifer Morrison). They each have internal and external battles to wage, and as such we see their struggle to make it work.

With the exception of some fights that are well-animated and include some bone crunching sound effects, the rest of the movie plays like an afterthought. New villain Hush (voice of Geoffrey Arend) shows up only when needed to move the non-romance portion of the plot along, and appearances by other villains like Poison Ivy (Peyton List) or even the Joker (voice of Jason Spisak), as well as friends like Superman/Clark Kent (voice of Jerry O'Connell) or Batgirl (voice of a different woman also named Peyton List) are quick blink and you miss them cameos.

It doesn’t help that the final revelation is a bit hokey and the ending is incredibly unsatisfying. “Batman Hush” is only worth it for Batman fans who need a fix of the Caped Crusader and all of his various friends and foes until the next, hopefully better written and more focused animated installment comes along. Stream it.

More New Releases: “Tolkien,” which explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school, starring Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Pam Ferris, and Derek Jacobi; “Plus One,” about two friends who agree to be each other’s plus one at every wedding they’re invited to during a summer of wedding fever, starring Maya Erskine, Jack Quaid, Ed Begley Jr., Finn Wittrock, Perrey Reeves, and Emma Bell; and “Changeland,” about two estranged best friends on a life-changing adventure in Thailand, starring Seth Green (who also wrote and directed), Breckin Meyer, Rachel Bloom, and Macaulay Culkin.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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