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.

[The Untruth] The Pokemon, Home Alone, and Seinfeld Cinematic Universe

This is The Untruth, a new series of articles examining the craziest theories I have come up while watching movies. But it’s all true, I swear!

Today, we will be examining how the Pokemon Universe actually contains Home Alone and Seinfeld.

I saw Pokemon: Detective Pikachu recently (actual review coming soon), and there two moments that stood out to me. Actually, there were probably a hundred moments, but we are just going to focus on two. The first moment happens when Tim Goodman returns to his father’s apartment to clean it out, and the second is a shared moment in a supply closet/office between Pikachu and Psyduck. Follow me here…

 

Point #1: Angles with Filthy Souls

Tim Goodman arrives at his dead father’s apartment to clean up and get it over with. As he enters the apartment, he hears something playing on the television. His father’s television is playing Angels with Filthy Souls, an old mobster noir film. This film appears in Home Alone as well.

You say, “Big whoop! It’s a classic mobster movie, isn’t it?”

Here’s the ticket: Angels with Filthy Souls isn’t a real movie. It was a fake film only created by the production team behind Home Alone. So if it isn’t real except in the world of Home Alone, then obviously Pokemon: Detective Pikachu exists in that world.

POINT MADE!

 

Okay, okay, okay, but it’s probably just a little fun easter egg for the fanbase, right?

Wrong! Careful consideration was put into placing Angels with Filthy Souls into Pokemon: Detective Pikachu. Sure, it’s a reference to noir films that Harry Goodman liked so much to watch, but is it really? Because according to the Home Alone wiki, the film only really has one scene of note, and it features two gangsters in a duel of wits and weapons. Even the sequel, Angels with Even Filthier Souls, doesn’t feature detectives, nor does the actual film that the title is based on, Angels with Dirty Faces. If it’s only there to denote the noir detective story that Detective Pikachu is, then why not use the myriad of other noir detective films of merit, like The Big Heat or Out of the Past, both featuring great detective characters.

So the choice to put Angels with Filthy Souls on the screen was deliberately to reference Home Alone, not the detective subgenre of noir. Therefore, it exists only in a world where Angels with Filthy Souls exist: The Home Alone Pokemon Cinematic Universe, or The HAPCU.

POINT DEFENDED!

But wait, there’s more…

 

Point #2: Serenity Now, Insanity Later

For those of you that do not spend a lot of time in the Pokemon Universe, Psyduck, the Pokemon partner of Lucy Stevens, is a Pokemon with a lot of power, but in the film, we see that Psyduck’s power breaks free when it becomes too stressed. Pikachu knows this, and tries to calm the concerned and frustrated Psyduck down by saying “Serenity Now” to it.

You say, “Big whoop! I’ve heard people say that before, what of it?”

Here’s the ticket: The phrase Serenity Now only entered the lexicon in the last twenty-some years. Where did it come from? Seinfeld, a show about nothing. Okay, so what does this mean? It means that Pikachu would have to exist in a world with Seinfeld, because there’s no other explanation for this phrasing’s inclusion in the film.

POINT MADE!

 

But I’m not done here, folks…

Because it is possible that the fictional version of Jerry Seinfeld from the television series doesn’t exist in the HAPCU, but instead is a show within the universe. Why would this matter? Because there is another piece of pop culture that contains Seinfeld as an in-universe show. What’s that, you ask?

Curb Your Enthusiasm.

 

Point #3: A pretty…pretty…pretty good argument.

Throughout Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Nine-Season run on HBO (with reportedly more on the way), we’ve seen the fictional version of Larry David credited and known for creating Seinfeld with Jerry Seinfeld. So just like the argument for Angels with Filthy Souls being a fictional film within the Home Alone franchise and the Pokemon franchise, Seinfeld is a fictional show in the Pokemon franchise and the Curb Your Enthusiasm series. If that is indeed the case (which it is), then Pikachu would have to have seen Seinfeld, the television series, created by the Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Therefore, Pokemon exists in the same universe as Curb Your Enthusiasm.

POINT MADE AND DEFENDED!

 

So what does it all mean?

It means that Pokemon: Detective Pikachu has constructed a fictional universe which contains Kevin McCallister, Larry David, and a talking sentient Pikachu who solves crimes and loves coffee. The Home Alone Pokemon Curb Your Enthusiasm Cinematic Universe, or the HAPCYEUCU for short.

-It means that, if Kevin really wanted to defend his home from the Wet Bandits, he need only a Charizard.

-It means that, if the Wet Bandits really wanted to rob the McCallister home, they could’ve used a Gengar with much better results.

-It means that, if Jerry Seinfeld really wanted to put his girlfriend to sleep so he can play with her toys, he should catch a Jigglypuff and have it sing to her.

-It means that, if Larry David really wanted to use the carpool lane at all times, he should catch a Ditto and then have it transform into a passenger.

 

It’s all so simple now!

And the most important thing, It’s The Untruth. All of it. I swear.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

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