CREDIT: Warner Bros./Legendary

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy, Chris Geere, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Rita Ora

Director: Rob Letterman

Running Time: 104 Minutes

Rating: PG for Explosions, Lightning Bolts, and Suspicious Gas

Release Date: May 10, 2019

The promise of a significant chunk of ’90s has been crystallized in the form of Detective Pikachu. Pokémon is a franchise that has endured for decades, but unlike say, Star Wars or the Muppets, it is not the sort of property that its fans continue to love, or love in the same way, as they grow older. Instead, it is tinged with nostalgia at the same time that it enthralls subsequent generations with new chapters. With its mix of live-action humans and CGI monsters and its expansive approach to Pokémon mythology, Detective Pikachu takes a rather meta stance towards a significant piece of culture. I enjoyed watching it, but I also had the sense that it was not as perfectly constructed as it could have been. It soon dawned on me that there was so much potential Pokémon goodness missing from this world that could be fleshed out in a TV version.

What I’m saying here is that I would love it if it turns out that Detective Pikachu is just the first chapter and that we get a new mystery for the adorable electric mouse to solve every week, with a few more big-screen adventures as well if anything gargantuan turns up. Surely Pika’s deerstalker hat of choice points to his sartorial inspiration as a possible model to follow for ongoing detective work. There is just so much untapped potential here in Ryme City, a land in which humans and Pokémon live alongside each other on equal terms. It’s not unlike Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but a lot more adorable. With hundreds of Pokémon available to play around with, necessarily only a small percentage are spotlighted. But more could have had their moment to shine, and hopefully more will.

But the Pokémon who do get their chance to shine give us some delightful, occasionally anarchic deployments of their unique powers, especially a frustrating charades-based interrogation with a Mr. Mime. What makes Detective Pikachu work as well as it does is its total lack of winking within its meta framework. As the voice of the title crimesolver, Ryan Reynolds is basically doing a PG version of Deadpool, which turns out to be just subdued enough to be plenty palatable. Among the rest of the cast, Kathryn Newton stands out as an underpaid digital news intern who is basically a doing an impression of a mix between a noir femme fatale and a His Girl Friday-type. Occasionally the film gets bogged down in heavy mythology that may be too much for even some Pokémon devotees, but when it maintains its full sense of playfulness, it is a commendably unique cinematic achievement.

Detective Pikachu is Recommended If You Like: Pokémon with a spritz of Minions and a soupçon of Deadpool

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Deerstalker Caps

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