NEW YORK — Devotees of the global media juggernaut that takes its name from the Japanese for pocket monsters will no doubt welcome “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” (Warner Bros.), the first live-action feature in the franchise that began with video games in the 1990s. As for those not yet initiated into the mysteries of the Pokemon universe, however, they may feel both left behind and unimpressed.
Take, for instance, the fact that one of the film’s two main characters, 21-year-old insurance worker Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), can understand the speech of the other, a Pikachu (voice of Ryan Reynolds). To those in the know, this is unprecedented since traditionally Pokemon of all descriptions, though they can perceive human emotions, can only enunciate their own names.
If you find that innovation exciting, this is the movie for you.
Tim and Pikachu cross paths after the lad’s estranged father, a detective who was Pikachu’s partner, disappears. Though a videotape seems to show that dad died in a car crash, there is reason to suspect he may, in fact, have survived.
Tim is initially reluctant to accept wisecracking, deerstalker-cap-sporting Pikachu’s help in the hunt for pop, but as time goes on, the two become friends. Tim is also aided in his search for clues by Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), an aspiring reporter with whom he’s soon smitten.
Writer-director Rob Letterman salutes teamwork and family ties while keeping the romantic behavior chaste. Though his picture showcases too much mayhem for little kids, it is acceptable for other age groups. Teens and their elders, for instance, will easily shrug off all the loose talk in the script about transferring souls from one body to another.
At the end of the day, the mostly harmless proceedings are rather hard to take seriously, populated as they are by such creatures as a duck whose head explodes when he gets over excited. So, while Pokemon fanciers may purr with delight, more cynical observers will be tempted to conclude, “Pikachu? Gesundheit!”
The film contains considerable stylized violence, a couple of mild oaths, vague sexual and drug-related jokes and a bit of scatological humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.