You really don't need to know your Aipom from your Wurmple to have a blast(oise) at this live-action/CGI movie. Pokemon Detective Pikachu is accessible and entertaining and delivers a solid, well-executed, family friendly adventure that honours its decades of beloved lore without being beholden to it.
This makes the film a wonderful and rare accomplishment; something both hardcore fans and newbies will enjoy.
It achieves this by resetting Pokemon's story, but not its rules. Instead of the usual spirited youngster setting off on adventure to become the world's greatest Pokemon trainer, the film is a soft-boiled mystery movie that twists and turns and twists again before revealing all. Though it's not Agatha Christie, there's enough going on here to keep young minds (and this reviewer) guessing to the end as well as tapping into some more emotional territory.
The film follows a young man named Tim who travels to the Pokemon-friendly Ryme City after the suspicious death of his detective father. On arrival he meets up with his old man's Pokemon, the detective Pikachu of the title, and is quickly roped into investigating what happened, as well as the origins of a suspicious substance that sends the usually friendly Pokemon into an aggressive rage.
Ryan Reynolds tones down his brand of snarky sarcasm to PG levels to voice Pikachu, giving both comedy and emotional depth to the bright yellow CGI critter, while Justice Smith is great as the film's reluctant hero Tim.
And though there's plenty of fan service - indeed one of the great joys of the movie is trainspotting all the weird and wonderful Pokemon wandering, flying and snoozing soundly around the noir-ish metropolis of Ryme City - it never gets in the way of the story.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu plays it smart by honouring the decades of lore that have made the critter-catching video game and cartoon series so beloved, while also ignoring all that to create its own unique story.
Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton
PG (Violence and scary scenes)
A fun and funny, family friendly adventure. The only mystery is why you wouldn't choose Detective Pikachu.