Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Director: Rob Letterman

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy

Screenplay: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Rob Letterman, Nicole Perlman

104 mins. Rated PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, and thematic elements.

 

After decades of waiting, a live-action Pokemon movie exists, and it follows Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town as he…wait? It doesn’t? Then who’s it about? Detective Pikachu? Seriously? Okay, let’s start this one again.

Tim Goodman (Justice Smith, Paper Towns, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) works in the high-stakes world of insurance, and he has no interest in being a Pokemon trainer, but when Tim learns of his father’s death, he goes to Ryme City to settle things. When Tim arrives at his father’s apartment, he comes across a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool, The Croods) sporting detective wear and claiming to belong to Harry, Tim’s father. The crazy thing is that he and the Pikachu completely understand each other as if they’re speaking the same language. Pikachu wants to solve the case of Harry’s possible murder, but he has amnesia and doesn’t remember anything. The two unlikely heroes join forces to find the culprits, and their search brings them to a conspiracy neither one ever expected.

I was really disappointed to hear that the first live-action Pokemon movie would be a Detective Pikachu movie, mostly because there was so much material to be mined in the Pokemon Universe, and choosing to focus on a game that was largely unreleased in North America until recently seemed like a really odd choice. Then, I heard Ryan Reynolds was voicing Pikachu and I got really concerned. It seemed to me like this whole franchise was coming together in a really bad way. Then, the poster looked okay. Then, the trailer looked silly, but it also looked like fun, so I became increasingly excited about the prospect of a Detective Pikachu movie, but there was still that lingering confusion as to the narrative purpose of a Detective Pikachu movie. It was only after seeing the film that I got it. There is a very important narrative purpose to this movie, and while I still would have like to see a straight-forward Pokemon adventure, Detective Pikachu is a great introductory course for Pokemon fans, and it has the potential to bring in a lot of new fans.

For the most part, Ryan Reynold’s voice work is pretty solid for him and the writing gives him a lot to play with. His chemistry as a CG-character actually melded pretty well with Justice Smith’s Tim. Their central relationship is the reason for watching the movie, as many of the secondary characters serve a purpose to that central relationship but little else.

Director Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens, Goosebumps) injected a lot of little references and visually appealing fan moments into the movie. I had some concern about the use of legendary characters like Mewtwo in this movie, and how they would be incorporated in an interesting way, and overall, it was mostly done with care. Again, the whole Mewtwo has a purpose in the film and a narrative reason to appear, albeit a thin one. What’s great is that, even with Mewtwo, his lore from the animated films and games appears to be intact and built into the character’s past. That’s one of reasons that I couldn’t look away from the screen during the movie. I have been a Pokemon fan since it hit stateside, and I was glued to the screen for every little CG critter to show up.

The biggest flaw of the film is that it caters to one demographic age range, which was a silly choice. This is a kid’s movie, and before you say DUH! I want to say that Pokemon, as a franchise is now multi-generational, much like the Toy Story movies. Kids who grew up with Pokemon when it started are not adults with their very own children, and if Detective Pikachu aimed their narrative at both kids and adults, it would have been more successful. I had a lot of fun watching, but the plotting was a little simplistic and I put it together rather easily. The final turn of the film surprised me a bit, and it was a good little hook to the narrative, but the overarching plotline was rather simplistic. Too much so.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu now holds the distinction of being the best video game movie ever, at least from a critical viewpoint, and I truly enjoyed it. It’s the kind of movie that Pokemon fans will like and non-Pokemon fans can at least understand. It’s plot is a little too rudimentary, but the central comradery between Pikachu and Tim is strong enough to carry, and it has plenty of cute little monsters to keep the spectacle alive.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my theory involving Detective Pikachu’s connection to Home Alone, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 3 – The Phantom of the Opera (1989)

Director: Dwight H. Little

Cast: Robert Englund, Jill Schoelen, Alex Hyde-White, Bill Nighy, Terence Harvey

Screenplay: Duke Sandefur

93 mins. Rated R.

 

I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally get a copy of The Phantom of the Opera in my hands. This film is widely available, but I’ve never brought myself to actually watch it for some reason until my colleague Marc lent it to me. I was so excited to finally see Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Nightworld) portray the Phantom. Boy, was I wrong.

Christine Day (Jill Schoelen, The Stepfather, When a Stranger Calls Back) is an opera singer living in Manhattan who has just found a rather unique piece of music to sing at her upcoming audition. She discovers that the writer of the piece, Erik Destler (Englund), was likely responsible for numerous slayings a hundred years earlier, but she decides to sing the piece anyway. At the audition, she is accidentally knocked unconscious by a falling sandbag and awakens to find herself in London in 1885. Now, Christine is stuck in 1885 being followed by a mysterious admirer, and the body count is growing.

I wanted to love this movie, and I was so disappointed. First of all, you cannot call your film a modern retelling of The Phantom of the Opera if almost the entire film takes place in the 1800s. I wanted a Phantom set in the 1980s. This film seemed very promising at the beginning only to veer off into a direction we’ve kind of seen before.

Robert Englund performs well at Erik even if he isn’t given nearly as much to do. I think the work he had done playing Freddy Krueger prepared him to be under layers of makeup and still show off his chops. I wasn’t all that impressed with the rest of the cast and I didn’t feel like any of them were given the ability to shine due to the fluff that fills the film.

Another thing too that kind of takes us into potential spoilery territory: there’s a sequence after the climax of the film that doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t do anything to push the narrative forward, it left a bad taste in my mouth (even after a disappointing 90 minutes), and overall just ended the film on a sour note.

The Phantom of the Opera is a rather large disappointment. This film just could have been so much more and I really pined for it, but as soon as the audience is introduced to this time-travel element, the film goes absolutely nowhere. It’s truly frustrating especially after the inspired decision to use Englund in the lead. This is one adaptation that will not earn any love.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Dwight H. Little’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Happy 10th Birthday!] The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

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Director: Garth Jennings

Cast: Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Anna Chancellor, John Malkovitch

Screenplay: Douglas Adams, Karey Kirkpatrick

109 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements, action and mild language.

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was perhaps doomed from the start. A big-budget adaptation of the wackiest space adventure ever conceived could only accidentally succeed or admirably tank.

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Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman, TV’s Sherlock, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) is fed up. His home is about to be demolished to form a hyperspace motorway, and he barely escapes thanks to a friend named Ford (Mos Def, The Italian Job, Begin Again) who might not even be human. As the two hitchhike across the galaxy alongside fellow Earthling Trillian (Zooey Deschanel, TV’s New Girl, Elf) and Galactic President-turned-fugitive Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell, Moon, Better Living Through Chemistry) in an attempt to find the Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

From a script by original author Douglas Adams aided by Karey Kirkpatrick, the film has everything that made the novel great. The performances are quirky enough to serve the source material while real enough to fit the film. I love that director Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow) seamlessly blends the main story with interjecting narration from the talking Guide (voiced by Stephen Fry).

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I think the major problem that people had with this film is that if you hadn’t read the book, you didn’t know what you were getting into. The novel was considered somewhat unfilmable because of its innate sense of insanity. Many thought they would get an interesting sci-fi comedy but they hadn’t expected to see anything like the finished product, because there really is nothing like this finished product. Another example of a film being misrepresented by its marketing. Another example of a great franchise squashed far too early.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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