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Review: ‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ is funny and adorable, despite kids’ movie pitfalls

The film succeeds on cute Pokémon and Ryan Reynolds’ charm

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I was a latecomer to the Pokémon franchise. Of course, like most people I know, I collected Pokémon cards, trading them back and forth on the elementary school playground. But the first Pokémon game I ever actually played was 2014’s “Pokémon Omega Ruby.” So though I’m not the kind of person who’s loved Pokémon all their life, I was still pretty excited when the trailer for “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” dropped late last year — not least because of Ryan Reynolds’  involvement. And for the most part, the movie delivers.

“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” follows Tim (Justice Smith), who, having sworn off having a Pokémon partner, must team up with a talking, amnesiac Pikachu (Reynolds) to find his supposedly-dead father. They uncover a conspiracy involving a chemical named “R,” Pokémon experimentation, and the laboratory-created Mewtwo.

Certainly, casting Reynolds was the best possible decision. Voicing and doing motion capture for the titular Pikachu, he absolutely lights up any scene he’s in and saves the movie from its slightly wooden first act. Of course, Reynolds’ caffeine-addicted, fast-talking, wisecracking Pikachu is incredibly funny (I have to imagine a not insignificant amount of his one-liners were improvised), but he’s also able to handle the more emotional beats of the film adeptly and the bond formed between him and Tim is adorable, if a little cheesy.

By far, the best parts of the movie are the Pokémon themselves. In addition to inventive designs, they are exceptionally well integrated into the everyday world (unlike many Pokémon properties), acting not just as battle partners, but as bartenders, traffic directors (and hazards), pets, and so much more. The film integrates them into their environments in a charming, convincing way, and it is an absolute joy to watch despite occasional hiccups in the interactions between human characters and their computer-generated Pokémon counterparts.

Don’t let Reynolds, who is famed for raunchy roles such as Deadpool, fool you, though. Ultimately, this is a kids’ movie. It suffers from the same things most kids’ movies do: clumsy emotional storytelling, suspiciously convenient plot devices, exposition-heavy dialogue, and a fairly predictable plot — it’s not, as it turns out, “very twisty.”

But ultimately, these issues are perfectly OK. This film was not made for me, or for the public at large. It was made for those among us who have absolutely loved Pokémon ever since they were kids, and especially for the kids who are just now falling in love with Pokémon. Even if neither of these describes you, though, it’s still worth a watch. All you need to do is turn your brain off a little and enjoy Reynold’s quippy dialogue and each and every charming Pokémon.

Reach Arts & Leisure Editor Sierra Stella at arts@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @sierramstella

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