Kathryn Newton and Justice Smith play two of the human characters in “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu.” Ryan Reynolds voices the title character. (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Kathryn Newton and Justice Smith play two of the human characters in “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu.” Ryan Reynolds voices the title character. (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Reynolds makes ‘Pikachu’ moderately bearable for nonfans

People interested in the Pokemon “universe” will probably enjoy this; others will find it tedious.

When I was walking out of a screening of “Pokemon Detective Pikachu,” a guy turned to his buddies and said, “I didn’t love the movie, but at least I like its universe.”

A lot of current moviegoing has come down to this: You gotta have a universe. Marvel has one, “Star Wars” has one, everybody has one. It doesn’t really matter whether the film is good or not — you check out how it fits in the universe, you spot the inside references, and then you go online and blast anybody who doesn’t appreciate your level of knowledge.

Pokemon, hatched in Japan in the mid-1990s, certainly has made its mark. I took my nephew to see the first Pokemon movie in 1999; this year (this is not a joke) he graduated from a Tokyo university. Coincidence? I think not.

Into this well-established Poke-verse, with its countless games and cartoon adventures, we now have a live-action Pokemon film. For Pokemon experts, there’s a lot to digest.

Officially, it’s from the galaxy that includes Detective Pikachu, in which the little yellow Pikachu character wears a Sherlock Holmes hat and solves crimes. Pikachu meets the human Tim Goodman (Justice Smith, from the last “Jurassic World” movie), and somehow they can hear each other’s languages.

This is good, because Ryan Reynolds provides Pikachu’s voice, and that’s an expensive hire if all he says is, “Pika pika.” In fact, Reynolds is one of the movie’s saving graces, at least for anybody over 12 years old. His trademark smartass persona survives intact here.

Pikachu and Tim are occasionally aided by a plucky reporter (well, an unpaid intern writing “Pokemon listicles all day”) named Lucy (Kathryn Newton, late of “Blockers”). They’re trying to find out what became of Tim’s estranged dad, a plot that leads to the founder (Bill Nighy) of Ryme City, where humans and Pokemon live in harmony.

You have to like the way that when a character in “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” casually asserts that “humanity is evil,” nobody bothers to challenge the claim. This is one of those movies that combine a weird darkness with jokes and kiddie slapstick.

Not that the film is for children; heaven forbid we suggest such a thing. Except in the sense that all movies are for children, at least during the summer season, which seems to last about nine months.

Director Rob Letterman makes one cool sequence with a forest that folds in on itself, and otherwise keeps the material chaotic. The fan service is extensive, with tons of gags that rely entirely on one’s knowledge of pre-existing Pokemon lore.

Is there a movie here? Even with appealing lead performances, and funny rat-a-tat dialogue, “Detective Pikachu” is tedious. But it’s enough to sustain a universe until next time, which is all that’s required.

“Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” (2 stars)

A spinoff of the Pokemon universe, this one allows Pikachu (voice by Ryan Reynolds) and his human partner (Justice Smith) to understand each other’s language as they solve a case. Lots of jokes, inside references and Reynolds’ ironic personality to make the time pass, yet the thing overall is tedious.

Rating: PG, for violence

Opening Friday: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Pacific Place, Meridian, Oak Tree, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor Plaza

Talk to us

More in Life

R.J. Whitlow, co-owner of 5 Rights Brewery, has recently expanded to the neighboring shop, formerly Carr's Hardware. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
County craft breweries’ past lives: hardware store, jail

Most breweries in Snohomish County operate in spaces that formerly housed something far different — from boat builders to banks.

Caption: Stay-at-home parents work up to 126 hours a week. Their labor is valuable even without a paycheck.
A mother’s time is not ‘free’ — and they put in 126-hour workweeks

If you were to pay a stay-at-home mom or dad for their time, it would cost nearly $200,000 a year.

CloZee performs during the second day of Summer Meltdown on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Darrington, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The psychedelic fest Summer Meltdown is back — and in Monroe

The music and camping event is on for July 28-31, with a new venue along the Skykomish River.

How to cultivate inner peace in the era of COVID, insurrection

Now more than ever, it’s important that we develop and practice relaxation and mindfulness skills that calm our minds and bodies.

Budapest’s House of Terror.
Cold War memories of decadent Western pleasures in Budapest

It’s clear that the younger generation of Eastern Europeans has no memory of the communist era.

Gardening at spring. Planting tree in garden. Senior man watering planted fruit tree at his backyard
Bare root trees and roses have arrived for spring planting

They’re only available from January through March, so shop early for the tree or rose you want.

Help! My Expedia tour credit is about to expire

Kent York cancels his tour package in Norway that he booked through Expedia after the pandemic outbreak. But the hotel won’t offer a refund or extend his credit. Is he about to lose $1,875?

Veteran Keith F. Reyes, 64, gets his monthly pedicure at Nail Flare on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021 in Stanwood, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No more gnarly feet: This ‘Wounded Warrior’ gets pedicures

Keith Reyes, 64, visits a Stanwood nail salon for “foot treatments” that help soothe blast injuries.

Photo Caption: A coal scuttle wasn't always used for coal; it could hold logs or collect ashes. This one from about 1900 sold for $125 at DuMouchelles in Detroit.
(c) 2022 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.
Coal scuttles of days long gone by now used for fire logs

This circa 1900 coal scuttle is made of oak with brass trim, and sold for $125 at auction.

Most Read