Live-action mixed with animation, a human who hates the "toons," a detective mystery — it's hard not to imagine Who Framed Roger Rabbit while watching Pokémon Detective Pikachu. Much has been lifted from the 1988 favorite and that may be a good thing for some audiences. Pokémon fans will undoubtedly like this movie, which throws us into the deep end of the Pokémon universe without life vests. Knowing little about the franchise, I was interested to see if I'd be interested. The short answer is nope. This is a shallow place. Aside from some impressive CGI, Pokémon Detective Pikachu fails to connect on any human level. It's more Garbage Pail Kids than Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Collect 'em all and throw 'em away when you get older.
Pokémon is the highest-grossing media franchise ever. Ever. What are these things? If you don't know (and I didn't), Pokémon are cute creatures with weird powers who first appeared in Game Boy games and trading cards in the mid-'90s. The general point of the franchise was to catch them, train them, and make them fight, and that's basically the world Detective Pikachu exists in. Pikachu, by the way, is the most popular Pokémon and thus, the hero of the movie.
Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) doesn't like Pokémon, or training Pokémon, ever since his mom died and his dad disappeared. But he soon becomes embroiled in a mission to find his father, Harry, who may not be gone after all. Tim goes to Ryme City, a futuristic metropolis where humans and Pokémon exist more as equals than trainers and pets. That's when Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) enters the picture. He's a detective, see, and he used to be Harry's partner. But he has amnesia. The little furball can't remember much, but more and more comes back to him as he and Tim set off on their adventure.
Based on a video game, Pokémon Detective Pikachu is structured the same way. Each level gets a little harder until we reach the end. What happens onscreen is simply filler. Fans should get down with all the Pokémon that appear in the film. (That's the only reason anyone's here anyway.) There are Psyducks and Charizards, Mewtwos and Bulbasaurs, and dozens of others. The human actors, for their parts, look totally lost at times. If you want to see a CGI movie where you can really tell the actors are talking to green screens, this is it.
Reynolds is the exception. He was lucky enough to get a voice role so the dialogue sounds marginally better coming from him. It's odd hearing his voice coming from the little yellow Pikachu, but it grows on you. Reynolds may not create an all-time character here, but he makes things more fun. Pokémon powers also invigorate the film. The creatures themselves range from ridiculous to genius but they are anything but boring. If only they had a real purpose.
Pokémon has no mythos, no world to call home. That's what's missing. They're more a corporate entity than a fantastic legend and that's why it's hard to judge a Pokémon film seriously. Little kids can take this stuff at face value and fall for the colors and the spectacle. But there's little else for anyone with a working brain.