Pokemon Detective Pikachu **

Pokemon fans may appreciate the characters and in-jokes, but for someone previously oblivious to Pokemon, there’s not much here. 

Is it worth $10? No  

I know nothing of the worldwide phenomenon known as “Pokemon.” I have no idea who Pikachu is. The truth is, I’ve never cared. The question is, will I care after the 104 minutes of “Pokemon Detective Pikachu”?

Nope. Judging by the audience’s reaction at a promotional screening, Pokemon fans may appreciate the characters and in-jokes, but for someone heretofore oblivious to Pokemon, there’s little here. Director and co-writer Rob Letterman’s film is set in the fictional Ryme City, in which humans and Pokemons co-exist. Note: They do not co-exist anywhere else in the world besides Ryme City, and this is thanks to the scientific efforts of media moguls Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) and his son, Roger (Chris Geere).

What is a Pokemon? They’re like pets, and vary in form from cuddly teddy bears to reptilian to something out of “Monsters, Inc.” Some are cute, some are scary, some are cute and scary. Pikachu (voice of Ryan Reynolds) is definitely on the cute side. He’s not really a detective as the title implies, though he does wear a Sherlock Holmes-ish deerstalker hat. I guess that makes him a detective. Pikachu is a cross between a cat and rabbit, with a lightning bolt for a tail that gives him superpowers.

In Ryme City, a human usually finds a soul mate with one Pokemon, similar to how viewers may have a special bond with an animal. Pikachu’s bond is with Tim (Justice Smith, no relation to Will Smith), as Tim is the only person who can understand what Pikachu is saying. Pikachu’s original owner, Tim’s father, disappeared, and they are on a quest to find him that leads to grave danger and many visual effects sequences. Helping out is a spunky young reporter named Lucy (Kathryn Newton), who’s annoying at first but grows on you.  

The PG rating makes this pretty typical kids’ fare, and to its credit it’s not too cloying or insufferable with sappy messages and melodrama. At its heart it’s an action movie, and at least three standout sequences in the second half of the film are sure to keep even the youngest in the audience engaged. What’s more, Reynolds delivers plenty of amusing one-liners, so the humor is reasonably there.

The rest of it, unfortunately, doesn’t have much to offer. The story lacks real originality. We’ve seen these story beats manifest plenty of times before, and just because it’s different characters embodying the action, it still doesn’t feel creative in any way. Sure, there’s impressive and laudable work done with the visual effects, but taking characters from a video game screen to a movie screen isn’t particularly noteworthy.

No doubt there’s a built-in market for “Pokemon Detective Pikachu,” and those fans will enable the film to do impressively well at the box office. Good for Warner Bros. in that regard. I, however, am left to wonder what all the fuss is about.    

Did you know?
Reportedly more than 800 Pokemon exist in video games and other outlets, but only about 60 are used in the film.

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