Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu was either going to be inspired casting, or it was going to fall flat on its face. While it's fair to say that it was more the former than the latter, it's also fair to say that the charismatic actor wasn't at his best in this surprisingly watchable family movie.
If you're thinking of seeing this one with the kids, worry not, as you don't really need to know anything about the Pokémon franchise to enjoy the movie - in fact, it may even help smooth off some of the rougher edges. That said, if you know the difference between a Pikachu and a Mewtwo before sitting down with your tub of popcorn, chances are you're going to notice little details and references that a poké-novice simply won't understand.
The story is centred around a young man called Tim, who heads to Ryme City to find out what happened to his dad, a detective called Harry Goodman. There he meets Pikachu, who for reasons that we'll not divulge for fear of spoilers, can speak but only to Tim, and so with a Reynolds-voiced Pikachu and budding journo Lucy Stevens in tow, Tim sets out on an adventure to work out the mystery surrounding his father's disappearance.
Ryme City is an interesting place where pokémon and people live side-by-side, and our young hero quickly finds himself embroiled in mysterious events, and Bill Nighy and Ken Watanabe are both on hand to offer some guidance as young Tim (capably played by Justice Smith) tries to work out what the hell is going on. The more he digs into events, the more the stakes are raised, until by the end of the movie when the whole city is in peril and it's up to Tim and his electric type pokémon to save the day.
The whole film is wrapped up in noir themes that we rather enjoyed, although much of that side of the film will be lost on younger viewers, and we can't recommend it for the youngest of Pokémon fans as so much of what happens on the screen (beyond the more visually-stimulating scenes) will just fly over their heads. That said, the father-son narrative beats and accompanying noir trimmings are light enough that most will be able to enjoy the movie for what it is.
In terms of the visuals, the CGI is very good, and such was their quality that we were able to buy the whole Ryme City setting. The animations of the pokémon were also well done, and the scene where Pikachu battles Charizard in an illegal battle is particularly eye-catching. Moreover, composer Henry Jackman did a good job with the score, and technically it's hard to fault with director Rob Letterman bringing a bunch of different themes and narrative strands together with plenty of aplomb.
While it's all rather predictable, it comes together satisfyingly enough. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu isn't going to be remembered as a cinematic tour de force, but it does sit near the very top of the pile when it comes to movies adapted from video game franchises, and if you're after a film that will entertain all but the youngest viewers, you can do a lot of worse than catch this movie.