Pokémon Detective Pikachu ★★½

DETECTIVE PIKACHU is not completely without merit, but as far as narrative goes, it is devoid of anything engaging at all.  An evil capitalist, a power and a powder that control Pokemon creatures, a sad son.  Nothing new here.  In fact the titular conceit—that of the ‘detective’ Pikachu—evaporates into nothingness and the idea of the Sam-Spade sleuthing genre elements with it.

Justice Smith is fine as a lead, and Reynolds’ voice works great, but the rushed film doesn’t foster or promote any chemistry between them.  Reynolds’ lines of dialog are oft rushed for the sake of a punchline while the editing crew loses the cleverness of the moment further by frequently cutting away to soon or failing to linger on characters an extra moment in reaction shots.  The film is a bit sloppy in how it covers its characters.

What does work well enough in DETECTIVE PIKACHU is the film’s sense of world-building.  The collectible-card-game world of these creatures does come to life here. Animators design and then incorporate the creatures into the film quite effectively.  They have a nice look (despite a flat-looking film overall), and they fit into the final frame with live actors quite well.  Sort of like a Winnie the Pooh adventure—its more about solidifying the brand-name characters and manufacturing a Pokemon Universe than it is ever about telling a compelling story. As much as I hate the idea of rehashing tired, useless scripts, there is a prevailing value to 90 minutes spent on enjoying the escapism of well-realized creative world (even one without story). It's too bad that the 'greater picture' of DETECTIVE PIKACHU is the built-in hard sell for me to stop at WalMart and buy a new deck of Pokémon trading cards. Or even more cynically that greater picture of strengthen Pokemon's own brand to the point of validating the licensing to put its creatures on the fronts of children's lunchboxes and the backs of their underwear.
C+