'Detective Pikachu' Mini-Review

May 10, 2019

I don't get it.

I mean, I get Detective Pikachu. The movie, that is. It's not complicated, basically one part noir, one part cartoon, about a young man trying to figure out who killed his father, and why: a sillier Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, perhaps. I could talk about Justice Smith's underwhelming performance as Tim Goodman or Ryan Reynolds's amusing-but-tiring shtick as the voice of the titular yellow catlike Pokemon whose powers involve lightning, I think (it's never really explained). Or about how something feels just a hair off with the computer animation; there's an unreality when Tim pats Pikachu's head, his hand seems to be resting just above it.

It's all the other stuff I don't get, really. Detective Pikachu is a straightforward nostalgia play, one whose existence is justified not by the story (which is weak) or the performances (which are mediocre) or even the special effects (which are fine, for the most part, quibbles about Pika-hair aside). The whole reason this movie exists is to make people who are familiar with the world of Pokemon say "I recognize that!"

As someone who cannot say "I recognize that!" about the pocket monsters or their world, having aged out* of the phenomenon when it swept onto American shores in 1997, I found myself growing a bit antsy as the running time progressed. Was I supposed to recognize the cafe that Pikachu and Tim went into? Do I need to know what a Magic Carp is or why it's funny Pikachu would try to get him to fight a giant dragon? Am I expected to have an encyclopedic knowledge of each of these creatures and their skill sets and what it means to score a critical hit? Am I obligated to know what a Diplo is?

In short: Detective Pikachu made me feel old.

Look, this has been a long time coming and I can't complain too much. After all, what has the last 20 years of Hollywood been but a nostalgia play for people in my cohort: comic book movies and Wars amongst the Stars and sequels and prequels and reboots and remakes and reimaginings. If you weren't acquainted with the lore of my youth, the current landscape might be confusing and frightening to you, too.

Anyway, I'm probably not the guy to ask if you should see Detective Pikachu; your familiarity with Pokemon is a better guide than anything I could tell you. Just make sure to get off my lawn as quickly as you can.

*I realize it's a fool's game to try and use cultural markers as dividing lines for generations—the demographers reading this right now are nodding their head and also increasingly annoyed by the realization of what I'm about to say next—but I do think knowledge/enjoyment of Pokemon is a significant divider between Xennials and Millennials.

Published under: Movie Reviews