It was a bit of a head-scratcher when we heard the first-ever live-action Pokémon movie would not star Ash Ketchum (or even Red) but instead Detective Pikachu, a fast-talking investigator with a nose for finding clues and an alarming caffeine addiction. But between Detective Pikachu’s immaculately rendered Pokémon, a story with a big heart, and Ryan Reynolds’ whip-smart, self-aware performance as the title character, it’s easy to see why Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is super effective.
Detective Pikachu follows the eternally exasperated Tim Goodman, played with a touch of wry humor by Justice Smith, a young man who prefers to keep his distance from the fantastic beasts that populate his world. While it may seem strange for a Pokémon movie to tell the story of a guy who doesn’t like Pokémon anymore, it actually serves to show why Pokémon are so special in the first place. Tim was a kid who decked out his room in Pokémon merchandise, collected Pokémon cards, and wanted to be a Pokémon Trainer, and given that many audience members can probably relate, Detective Pikachu uses this meta narrative to take Tim (and us) down memory lane to try and rekindle that childhood love/addiction.
The way Detective Pikachu goes about that, however, defies expectations by way of Detective Pikachu, who Tim teams up with to solve the mystery of what happened to his missing father. But this isn’t the cheerfully obedient Pikachu from the anime. It’s a precocious, obsessive-compulsive Pikachu who drives Tim up a wall. Yet what’s annoying for Tim is hilarious for us, and it’s the dynamic between Reynolds and Smith’s characters that wins you over with charm.