Even to the Pokemon Illiterate, ‘Pokemon: Detective Pikachu’ is a Charming and Silly Adventure through a Weird World

I’ll be perfectly honest here, I know next to nothing about Pokemon. It ascended to popularity while I was in college and in my “I’m so above that” phase and I’ve never really understood it. I tried playing Pokemon Go, I’ve tried to watch a few episodes of the animated series, and I’ve played Pikachu, Jigglypuff, and a few others on Smash Brothers…. I still don’t get it.

I don’t hate it, don’t get me wrong… I’m just not in the audience. No fault of mine and no fault of Pokemon. It’s just not for me.

With this movie, I’m a stranger in a strange land. My kids love Pokemon and wanted to go see it and, wanting to understand as much as I could about this evasive and mystifying world, I was too happy to acquiesce. Besides, it’s got Ryan Reynolds in it as the voice of Pikachu, so that’s gotta be good, right?

Two hours later and I have almost no idea what I just watched.

I’m not a (complete) idiot and I do understand the movie, but the world is odd and just doesn’t register with me. This must me what my mother felt like when my family dragged her out to watch Dr. Strange.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu is the first live-action film based on the Pokemon games and finds Justice Smith, a young man who has never adopted a Pokemon, coming to the big city after his father, a detective, is killed while working a case. Soon, Smith finds himself in the middle of a mystery when his father’s Pikachu Pokemon partner, turns up in his apartment… a Pokemon that can talk and that Smith and only Smith can understand. Soon, the two of them are following clues and a conspiracy to find out what happened to Smith’s father.

I just wrote that paragraph and I don’t get it.

All right, as I said, I’m not a (complete) idiot, I do understand the movie, and I do recognize quality when I see it. It’s only taken 30 years, but we’ve finally gotten a hands-down quality video game adaptation that doesn’t win the “best video game movie” award by default simply for being less bad than the rest of them. Pokemon: Detective Pikachu is a cute, funny, charming, and wholesome little movie with enough of an edge to be entertaining and enough cuddly fluffy things to keep the children entertained.

Much to my surprise, the story has even got some respectable twists and turns in it, some I saw coming and others I did not.

Now, fully disclosure… there were times I was confused and bored mostly because this movie doesn’t spend a whole lot of time explaining why a duck can explode if its stressed or what the heck a Mew is, but it’s not completely inaccessible to outsiders such as myself. This is a movie with handicap ramps, but they’re steep and you will find yourself rolling backwards if you’re not careful.

The end result is that Detective Pikachu is a cute and harmless movie with a quality story told by people who care about what they’re writing and filming… who would have thought that care was the secret ingredient all along. Perhaps there’s hope for the future of video game adaptations after all.

Oh look… the trailers for The Angry Birds Movie 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog just killed that hope.


  1. The best of Pokemon was the game boy games. You would understand that, in the game, Mew was the first pokémon created and that Mewtwo was a replica created in lab; also that Psyduck has contant headaches and has psychic powers. Maybe if you like japanese rpgs you should try playing pokémon firered or greenleaf for game boy advance (on emulators). All pokémon after captured are added to your pokédex which gives them all their info you need to watch the movie.


  2. Play the game: pokémon firered for game boy advance released in 2005. Every pokémon you capture gives their info inside your encyclopedia (pokédex). Mew was the first pokémon created and Mewtwo is his replica created in laborathory (turned evil but then 20 years later became an ok guy in the movie). Also Psyduck has psychic powers and a constant headache, that releases his psychic powers (you discover that in the game too).


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