Ever since it was announced that Ryan Reynolds would lend his voice to Pikachu in a partially live-action, partially CGI film called Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, it’s been kind of difficult to get a read on whether or not the project was a good idea for Warner Bros. Studios.
In the world of Detective Pikachu, our furry protagonist does more than just mutter “Pika Pika” like he does in the Nintendo video games and cartoon series. Instead, the CGI Pokémon is voiced by Reynolds, who doesn’t give the character a high-pitched voice to sound “cute.” Instead, his version of the character is irreverent, drinks coffee, and also wears an adorable deerstalker hat because he is an actual detective. Pikachu and Tim Goodman (sorry, so far there appears to be no Ash Ketchum in this iteration of the Pokéverse), former aspiring Pokémon trainer and the son of a late gumshoe detective, join forces to solve a murder. In other words, a CGI-animated talking character from a video game for children teams up with an actual teen to fight crime. There isn’t much about that sentence that would necessarily suggest that this production could hit every mark it sets out to achieve.
Rob Letterman, the film’s director, also shot Detective Pikachu on 35-millimeter film, which is almost unheard of for children’s movies, especially ones that feature CGI characters alongside live-action performers.
Not only is Detective Pikachu a hodgepodge of genres (according to The Atlantic it is a combination of “noir, sci-fi, kid-adventure”), but it features quite a motley crew of guest stars as well. Justice Smith stars as Tim Goodman, with Kathryn Newton as a fellow Pokémon trainer turned crime solver, and other roles played by Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe, Chris Geere, and Suki Waterhouse. The film will be released on Friday, but for months the studio and the film’s stars kept hush-hush about a handful of actors who had been cast in then yet-to-be-disclosed roles. The trailer, which was released in November, revealed that the movie would feature cameos from Rita Ora as a scientist, and the IMDb page reveals that Diplo appears as a version of himself.
According to the reviews, though, Detective Pikachu is quite a delight. It may be a pastiche in more ways than one, but critics are adamant that this somehow works. Vulture says it’s “fun,” the Los Angeles Times remarked on how “cuddly” it is, and it currently holds a 69 percent rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The New York Post is even calling it “one of the most enjoyable buddy-cop movies of 2019” (surely the Men in Black: International Team are kicking themselves for not releasing that one earlier).
All in all, the general consensus seems to be that Detective Pikachu is too zany and cute not to love, and many agree that Letterman did a pretty good job at world-building. You’ll have to wait until Friday to see the movie and decide for yourself whether it is as good as everyone says it is, but for now you can at least watch this 102-minute loop of Pikachu dancing in a shot-by-shot re-creation of that Key & Peele “Aerobics Meltdown” sketch to tide yourself over.