No one should blame any parent with a child who wants to see “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” for approaching the prospect with an impending sense of dread.
For those of us who endured the search for assorted Pokemon cards, figures and the ubiquitous McDonald’s Happy Meal toys that featured the standard trap, a red and white ball, it’s an earned right.
As someone who forgot to give his son one of the coveted toys of 1999 — so desirable he asked Santa for it in April of that year — known as a Pokedex, an electronic index of the cute and cuddly obnoxious creatures, there was no way I was about to like this thing, right?
Correct. "Like" would be offering too much praise for a film that plays more like an overlong afternoon cartoon, for which adults would need multiple bowls of Cap ‘n’ Crunch (with Crunchberries to jack up the sugar factor) to stave off dozing for much of its 104-minute run time. Unless of course, said adults were on the older pre-teen side when the Pokemon cartoon series began its 13-year run in 1997.
It’s conceivable plenty of those adults would now inhabit the audience with their children, reveling in revisiting their younger years and, in the process, bonding with their progeny. (Sorry, I’m still doing penance for turning my older son on to “Star Wars.”)
Make no mistake, that’s the audience “Pikachu” is aimed squarely at, and it’s not necessarily bad. It’s a film that at its heart is about parents and children, fathers and sons, and director Rob Letterman and a team of writers have the sense to explore with a light touch.
The best move they made was jettisoning the obnoxious Team Rocket, from the first-ever live-action film in the franchise. Their shenanigans have been excised, and their obvious, noxious blend of avarice and stupidity is not missed. If you have to ask who they are, that’s a good thing. It allows the filmmakers freedom to get a different take on a franchise that offered something imaginative when it debuted on American TV screens back then.
Instead the Pokemon — pocket monsters — live in harmony with humans and battles among them, which were a hallmark of the TV series, are practically nonexistent. However, something’s not quite right in Ryme City, home to this universe. Harry Goodman, a local detective, discovers something afoot. Unfortunately, he doesn’t live to tell his tale, and his son Tim (Justice Smith) comes to the city to close out his affairs.
Ryme City is unique in that every human has a Pokemon partner, and Harry was no exception. His Pikachu (voice by Ryan Reynolds) hooks up with Tim and eventually comes to the conclusion that Harry isn’t so dead, leading them to a mystery involving relationships, death and regret.
Yes, that’s some heavy stuff, but consider the source material as “Detective Pikachu” produces — or tries to produce — its share of laughs. They don’t come consistently, but when they do it’s courtesy of Reynolds treating the character like Deadpool if his mother scrubbed his mouth with a bar of Irish Spring. That aspect of the film raises it to the level of "tolerable" for adults.
In general, however, parents should endure “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” for the kids.
George Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.