For a generation, my generation, there are few lines as evocative as ‘Pika Pika!’ For those of us who walk the line between ‘Millennial’ and ‘Generation Z’, that line takes us back the late 90s. It was a time for us when the Friends theme tune was a fun-sounding song as opposed to a prophetic anthem of our future (‘your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s doa’). It was a time when all we really cared about was one boy, Ash, and his beloved Pokemon.
It’s obvious from the outset that this film release is an attempt to cash-in on the title wave of nostalgia that is currently the bulk of pop culture. But that doesn’t stop it from being truly fun, surprisingly emotional and utterly joyous. The reason for that is a simple one, the film embraces the madness of its concept and throws everything at it. The film could so easily have favoured an approach of snark or knowing irony. Instead it’s far more inclusive than that. Being a Pokemon fan isn’t a requirement. Kids and adults alike will find something t o enjoy.
First and foremost, you can go into this film knowing nothing about Pokemon. There’s no entry level requirement of knowledge, no test or cramming session is required before purchasing your ticket. The film uses the concept of Pokemon, creatures that are like animals but each individual species is in possession of powers, but explores it in a way that could easily be stand-alone. That being said, having a prior history pays off – if only for the inducement of joy on seeing some recognisable creatures pop up.
There’s no Ash here, instead our leading man is Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a young man who is on his way to clear out his father’s apartment in the wake of his father’s death. Tim’s dad was a highly regarded cop in Ryme City, a metropolis where humans and pokemon live side-by-side, near enough literally – with humans and Pokemon working and living in pairs, partnered according to characteristics (like dæmon in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials book trilogy). Upon arriving in his dad’s apartment, Tim is surprised to find a Pikachu wearing a deerstalker. Tim’s even more surprised to find out he can speak with and listen to Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) – something no-one else can do.
What plays out is a detective story, unsurprisingly, with Tim trying to work out what happened to his dad whilst also working out how & why he can communicate with a behatted Pikachu. The film utilises the tropes of crime, particularly film noir, to joyous effect. So much so it would be rather apt to describe it as neo-n noir, such is the visual feast/assault on the senses. Every moment is packed full of action and colour, not too mention an insane gag rate of jokes.
But what really makes Detective Pikachu a must-see is the clear love that has gone into making it. Like last month’s Shazam, this is a film rooted in a ludicrous concept that doesn’t just work, but excels, because of the amount of heart that has gone into making it.
It’s earnest, endearing and well worth a Pika.
Detective Pikachu is out in UK cinemas from May 10th.