If you don’t have at least a passing familiarity with the Pokémon universe, watching the live-action/ animated hybrid “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” will be as confusing and as unsatisfying as watching “Avengers: Endgame” if you’ve never watched a Marvel movie or read a comic book.
For the hordes of Pokémon fans, who have watched the animé TV series or the movies, or played the video games or trading card game, the action-adventure movie is catnip. For those of us in the middle, who picked up Pokémon through contact with kids who consume it like air, it’s a passably fun if frenetic send-up of detective noir.
In Ryme City, humans and Pokémon have learned to live in harmony, without the Pokémon being trapped in Pokéballs to battle for their humans’ amusement. This urban paradise is credited to billionaire Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), who went to live with Pokémon in the wild to cure his debilitating ailment. His media empire is run by his son, Roger (Chris Geere), who argues with his father about his altruism.
Outside of Ryme City, there’s a lab where the most powerful of Pokémon, the genetically raised superbeing Mewtwo, escapes and seems to cause a car accident involving a detective.
Back in Ryme City, that detective’s son, Tim Goodman (played by Justice Smith), visits and learns that his father is missing and presumed dead. In his father’s apartment, he finds only one clue: A Pikachu, the yellow lightning-throwing Pokémon, with a Sherlockian deerstalker cap. And, unlike most Pokémon, he can understand what Tim is saying, and Tim can understand what the Pikachu is saying — and the Pikachu sounds just like Ryan Reynolds, only with a lot fewer f-bombs than Deadpool.
Director Rob Letterman (“Goosebumps”), who’s one of the script’s four credited writers, makes this “Roger Rabbit”-like caper move fast and loose, as Tim and Pikachu try to unravel the mystery, accompanied by Lucy (Kathryn Newton), an eager cub reporter interning for the Cliffords’ TV news empire.
The fun of “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” comes in two forms. The kids and Pokémon fanatics will thrill to see how many of the 809 Pokémon characters are deployed for sight gags and plot twists. And the grown-ups will enjoy Reynolds’ hilarious line readings coming out of a cute yellow fuzzball.
‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’
Opens Friday, May 10, in theaters everywhere. Rated PG for action/peril, some rude and suggestive humor, and thematic elements. Running time: 104 minutes.