There is a time in everyone’s childhood where (most) of the things we liked as kids become too childish, and we move on to other things that are more mature (basically adolescene). For me, the world of Pokemon snuck in just before I reached this stage as it became one of the staples of my childhood (as well as most kids in the 90s). The games were what intrigued me the most (I did not collect the cards as much as my little brother did), and survived (to say the least) the first animated movie (the show was better). I stopped being totally interested after the second or third generation.
Now, a few years after the huge mobile explosion that is Pokemon Go (which I still dabble in), we have the first live action film in Pokemon Detective Pikachu. While the film is not likely to appeal to those who don’t know a Squirtle from a Pidgey, the film is still nearly as close to a good Pokemon film as we will get. The film starts out with Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) being told that his long estranged father has perished in a car accident. Though he has not seen his father in years (his mother passed away when he was young), he decides to visit the city after being told the details by his father’s partner, Lt. Yoshida (Ken Watanabe).
Unlike the video games (at least the ones I played), there is no fighting in the city (at least legally). Thanks to a business guru named Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), people and Pokemon live together (somewhat peacefully). Still, Tim realizes that things don’t completely add up. When he arrives at his father’s apartment, he runs into a Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds). Even if you are not at all familiar with Pokemon, you should at least know that they only say their name (or are they named after what they say?) For some reason, Tim can clearly understand the wisecracking electric rodent, and even though he says he does not need a Pokemon, he can clearly use help in finding out what really happened to his father. He gets more intel from rookie reporter Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), accompanied by her Psyduck (and if you know Pokemon, you know you don’t want Psyduck to have a headache).
As of this writing, there are over 800 different types of Pokemon (seven generations). A very wise choice was made in keeping the number of them very limited on screen. For the most part, we get some good crowd favorites ranging in minor cameos (the always lovable Jigglypuff and her “singing” voice, the ridiculous Magikarp, though we do get to see it evolve with wondrous results) to more powerhouses like Charizard and the legendary Mewtwo. Sadly, for a Pokemon movie, there are very few action scenes (the battle scenes we do get are rather effective). The film plays more like a semi-noir flick (On “The Big Picture” Podcast, host Sean Fennessey said it best when he described the film as “a Humphrey Bogart movie with Pokemon”.) I am not arguing that film noirs are bad (I am a huge fan of Bogie). Its just that if a movie is going to be about Pokemon, I would have wanted more battles.
Undoubtedly, if there is one reason for people (fan or not) to see the film, it is Ryan Reynolds. I walked in expecting a PG version of Deadpool, and that is basically what happened. There are snappy one liners (“At this point, how can you now believe in climate change?”) that are a wonder, mainly because of Reynolds. There are times when it feels like he was just free to adlib most of his dialogue.
Parents, there is very little here to worry about. Despite some mild (maybe two or three times is a minor four letter word used) swearing, there is nothing that should stop you from taking you kids.
It is not hard to imagine that some of you reading this have thought of the whole “Pokemon thing” silly and ridiculous. Fair enough. However, God gave us one of the best gifts, imagination. Some of us have only limited this to playing “pretend” or having an “imaginary friend” (mine was named Gerald), but others have taken it to great lengths. These are names such as Walt Disney, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, A.A. Milne, P.L. Travers, George Lucas, J.K. Rowling, and Stan Lee. Each of these individuals excelled with their imagination and gave worlds that some of us would find near impossible to “live” without. Moreover, Jesus frequently gave some of his best teachings through the use of storytelling (e.g., parables). Perhaps if Jesus’s life and ministry were to have occurred in the 21st century, he might have used film to speak to his audience.
The man who created the Universe of Pokemon, Satoshi Tajiri, may not be completely well known here in the states (at least not as much, I imagine, as he is in Japan), but even non fans of Pokemon have to show some respect for what he did. His universe may not have as many fans as that of Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, or the MCU, but the ideals and core values are still there. It brings the kid out in adult fans. To quote C.S. Lewis, “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”