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August 26th, 2019

Max’s View: Detective Pikachu

For Pokemon Fans: 3.5 stars

For non-fans: 1.5 stars

 Sunday is Pokemon Day in my household.

My wife and I go to the park and play Pokemon Go until our phones run out of battery.

We hit Pokestops to load up on balls. We catch dozens of Pokemon. We give gifts to our friends around the world.

We take over gyms together and fill the newly conquered gyms with our favorite high-powered Pokemon (go Team Valor!).

We meet strangers and go on Raids with them. Then we use our curveball skills to try to catch the Legendary Pokemon that we defeated together.

Pokemon Go brings my wife and I closer together. And it introduces us to fellow players who we would never otherwise meet. Pokemon Sundays are relaxing and healthy. All the stress from my work week evaporates, leaving only camaraderie and cuteness.

The Japanese have a word: kawaii. It roughly translates to lovable and cute. But in Japanese culture, kawaii isn’t just an adjective, it is a responsibility. If you are making something kawaii, you must make it seriously adorable.  

The makers of “Detective Pikachu” did not skimp on the kawaii.

From the Squirtle firefighters shooting water to put out a flame to the empathetic Bulbasaurs leading injured Pikachu to safety, there are many moments of pure kawaii bliss for Pokemon fans.

Normally, I think special effects are the enemy of good filmmaking. But in this case, special effects are the movie. Director Rob Letterman deserves credit for getting the Pokemon/human interface just right.

“Detective Pikachu” introduces us to Rhyme City, which feels like present-day Tokyo meets Blade Runner. In Rhyme City, the humans and Pokemon live together in harmony. People find companionship in their pet Pokemon, and the tamed Pokemon find meaning in sharing their lives with their human partners.

If Rob Letterman had presented the Pokemon as mere Jar Jar Binks-esque cartoonish creatures, “Detective Pikachu” would have been a mess. But in Ryme City, the Pokemon have texture and dimension and seem tethered to the same alternative reality as the human actors.

I honestly don’t know if some of the Pokemon characters are puppets in their close-up scenes or whether they are totally computer generated. And that’s an incredible achievement.

As for the film itself….eh, it’s just okay.

Tim Goodman (played by Justice Smith) is a normal young man from the sticks who has to visit Rhyme City to get his late father’s affairs in order. There he meets a plucky TV reporter and a talking Pikachu that only he can understand.

The first ¾ of “Detective Pikachu” is a decent film noir throwback. The final act is an uninspired high-flying CGI fight. It may as well be Iron Man 6 or Avengers of the Galaxy 23. It’s totally derivative.

I don’t recommend “Detective Pikachu” for non-Pokemon fans. But Pokemon fanatics like me are going to like it. In fact, we already do. The only question is whether we are going to see it again next Sunday. Nah…..my wife and I will probably be too busy at the park playing Pokemon Go. 

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