Movie Review: ‘Detective Pikachu’ the Movie Demonstrates Its Potential Worth as a TV Show

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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

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ is Just as Boring as Its Predecessors, But More Histrionic and Pointless

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CREDIT: Universal Pictures

This review was originally posted on News Cult in February 2018.

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Max Martini, Brant Daugherty, Arielle Kebbel, Fay Masterson, Luke Grimes, Eloise Mumford, Rita Ora, Marcia Gay Harden, Tyler Hoechlin, Hiro Kanagawa

Director: James Foley

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Rating: R for The Usual T&A, Sometimes Involving Ice Cream, Plus a Climactic Gunshot

Release Date: February 9, 2018

Fifty Shades Freed is just as boring as the rest of the Grey/Steele saga, and the whole S&M hook has ceased to be a big deal ever since the first entry was released. It’s not like it was ever that big a deal in the first place, though enough people were titillated by the promise of transgression to result in a phenomenon. But now that the aftershocks are nowhere near as explosive, what is the point? With Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Ana (Dakota Johnson) comfortably married, the whole frisson of inappropriateness is eliminated, and all Fifty Shades Freed has to fall back on is a fairly boilerplate tale of revenge and kidnapping.

The troubles that apparently drive the action involve Ana’s former boss Jack (Eric Johnson), who blames her for his firing, so he resorts to stalking to exact his revenge. There is never any tension that suggests that Jack will not be dispatched by the end or that it makes it thrilling at all in the moment. From a narrative standpoint, it exists, I guess, so that Christian can save Ana, thus solving any and all current and future marital troubles. Because the thing is, the struggles between the two of them have little to do with the parameters of their kinkiness and everything to do with emotional maturity or lack thereof. Christian is overly controlling and protective, and hilariously unprepared for the prospect of being a father. I worry about the long-term viability of this union, not because a possibility for abuse, but rather because any fundamental compatibility is just not there, and the shallow picture-perfect ending cannot convince me otherwise.

While the sex scenes are essentially window-dressing at this point, they are still the main attraction (along with the luxury travel porn). There is certainly some excitement to being in a crowded theater as the camera almost zooms in on a hardcore reveal. But if you are going to venture out to see this sort of action instead of pulling it up on your computer, there ought to be some romance leading up to it. But the two leads have just never managed to summon any significant chemistry.  Johnson is perpetually unsure what kind of movie she is in, alternating playing it straight with occasionally venturing a mildly subversive line reading that would fit a version of this movie that makes fun of itself. Dornan, meanwhile, sleepwalks through the whole thing. Arielle Kebbel, as an architect who gets a little too flirty with Christian, is the only one to zero in on a satisfyingly campy tone, but she is barely utilized. All this confusion is inherent to a traditional center attempting to be transgressive.

Fifty Shades Freed is Recommended If You Like: Porn Minus the Romance, Melodramatic Revenge Plots

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Boobs in Boobland