When I saw the first trailer of Pokémon Detective Pikachu, I knew I wanted to see it. Not that I was a big Pokémon fan, but I wanted to see what these adorable creatures would look like as three-dimensional CG characters. It hasn’t been done in this space before and I was curious. Plus, getting Ryan Reynolds to voice our titular character? I knew I would be in for a good time. And on that front, the movie delivered. It’s as entertaining as it could be—giving these characters that have been in every imaginable medium a new lease on life.

The story doesn’t revolve around Pokémon battles (but there is one in it). Instead, we follow 21-year-old Tim Goodman (played by Justice Smith) as he finds himself in Ryme City trying to wrap up the affairs of his estranged father, Harry Goodman. His dad went missing and is presumed dead. He meets Harry’s former Pokémon partner Pikachu (Reynolds), who has amnesia but who is convinced that his partner isn’t dead. That something sinister happened and they had to figure out what. 

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While Tim initially wanted to get things in order and leave Ryme City as soon as possible, the fact that he could communicate with Pikachu—a feat not possible with other Pokémon—and that the little detective wouldn’t take no for an answer had Tim looking into his father’s disappearance.

The two meet Lucy (played by Kathryn Newton), who is an intern/junior reporter looking for her big scoop. She solidified their hunch that something was wrong in the city. The four of them, including Lucy’s Psyduck, work to uncover what happened to Tim and inadvertently discover the dark side of the seemingly prosperous metropolis.

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Ryme City was created by billionaire Howard Clifford (played by Bill Nighy), who envisioned a community where humans and Pokémon live side by side in harmony. The humans had Pokémon partners help with their careers, act as companions, and just inhabited the city alongside people as their equals. But like we said, what seems harmonious on the surface has its own darkness lurking underneath.

The mystery/adventure plot of the film is the engaging part. It’s not the most original tale, and some “twists” you might a mile away, but it being told in this world makes it entertaining to see. There are jokes for kids and some that only adults will understand, which gives everyone watching it something to laugh at and enjoy. You don’t even need to be a hardcore Pokémon fan to appreciate the film. But there are tons of Easter eggs for those who are, and you’ll enjoy trying to identify every single one of them.

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Director Rob Letterman and his team were able to translate the different personalities and powers of all the beloved and strange Pokémon. The production team made sure the proportions of each character were properly measured, so that they could be as close to real life as one would get with imaginary creatures.

The city itself drew from the idea of a modern metropolis that mixes both the familiar and the unknown. It’s something that can exist in your part of the world, while also feeling foreign at the same time. Just like with how they wanted the story to reach everyone, the setting also felt like it was built to be familiar to everyone.

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What really carried the film though is its small-yet-larger-than-life main character Detective Pikachu and his interactions with Tim. There’s something jarring about hearing Reynolds’ voice in what he’s called a “little cotton ball” of a Pokémon. But that’s what makes it funny. You feel like Reynolds’ personality was injected into this sassy little creature. After being around for over 20 years, this is the first time we hear a Pokémon speak, and the most recognizable one no less. We learn about his quirks, like how he’s apparently very caffeine-dependent, as well as how he interacts with the other Pokémon we don’t get to hear speak.

The secret to how they got the interaction between Tim and Pikachu to be as natural as possible was Reynolds and Smith recorded their scenes together and at the start of physical production, Reynolds stayed on the set to feed him Detective Pikachu’s lines via an earpiece. They were, as Reynolds pointed out, talking over each other a lot and that needed to translate on-screen. This unusual approach seemed to work and the rapport between the two is undeniable.

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The film has you rooting for their friendship. It reminds us that you can sometimes find friendships in the most unusual circumstances, but you have to be open to accept that. It also has you hoping that Tim finds the closure or understanding he needs when it comes to his estranged father. That things aren’t always what they seem and sometimes you have to go with your gut, be brave, and relentlessly uncover the truth.

Is the film worth watching?

Pokémon Detective Pikachu brings the fun, silly franchise to life in a new way that will entertain both kids’ fantasies about this magical world and the adults who may or may not be fans but want to get a good laugh.


8 out of 10

Pokémon Detective Pikachu opens in Philippine cinemas on Thursday, May 9