Pokémon: Detective Pikachu First Reviews: You'll Laugh, "Awww," And Maybe Scratch Your Head

On track to be the first Fresh major video-game movie adaptation ever, Detective Pikachu is wowing critics with color and laughs, but baffling them with its overstuffed plot.

One of the most anticipated family movies of the year – thanks to deep nostalgia and a killer marketing campaign – Pokémon: Detective Pikachu has turned out to be one of the more divisive releases in a long time – even as it sails clearly into Fresh territory. (It is currently ay 73% on the Tomatometer, with 33 reviews, as of May 3 at 10:20am.) Some fans love it, some don’t. Many newcomers are delighted, others aren’t. The first reviews of the movie have arrived, and nobody can seem to agree about the merits of the story, the visuals, the performances, or who it’s for. In a way, that’s exciting. Thrilling even (who wants everything so easily defined?). Now you can go and see it for yourself and find out where you land.

Here’s what the critics are saying about Pokémon: Detective Pikachu:

So, tell us: Has the video-game movie curse been broken?

Did Detective Pikachu break the dreaded video game movie curse…? To borrow a phrase, it’s super effective.
Dan Casey, Nerdist

Easily the best video game movie ever. – James Perkins, Starburst

The first good video game movie. – Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

While video game movies haven’t had the best track record, this movie is by and far the best example of how to do one right. – Joshua Yehl, IGN Movies

Takes the crown of ‘Best Video Game Movie’ simply by being basically competent rather than because it can truly shine on its own merits. – James Whitbrook,

Does it do justice to the source material?

The movie comes from a place of great love and understanding for the simple joy of what Pokémon represents.
James Whitbrook,

Detective Pikachu is very willing to make fun of itself while also showing a reverence for the source material.
Joshua Yehl, IGN Movies

Detective Pikachu
(Photo by @ Warner Bros. Pictures, @ Legendary )

Will Pokémon fans love it?

For fans of the Pokémon universe, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu ticks all of the boxes for what you want to see in this kind of adventure. – James Perkins, Starburst

Fully realizes what Pokemon fans have dreamed of for more than twenty years. – Dan Casey, Nerdist

This is a film for the fans but also one that will open the Pokémon universe to a whole new audience and generation.
Ashley Menzel, We Live Entertainment

Detective Pikachu is mostly for the veterans of the franchise. If you don’t understand Pokémon, get the hell out of the theater. – Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

Can non-Pokémon fans enjoy the movie?

 I’ll admit, I wasn’t excited in the least…[but] within a few minutes of the film, I found myself totally invested in the characters and the story. – Ashley Menzel, We Live Entertainment

There’s enough here to please both Pokemaniacs and the Poke-non – Michael Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter

Prior affinity or knowledge of the franchise isn’t exactly a requirement, but for those who have both, the clever nostalgia drops elicit elation. – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

For those of us who don’t know a Jigglypuff from a Charizard, this film scores low on wit, coherence and engagement. – Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

You do have to be fairly well invested in the Pokémon franchise to appreciate the result. – Peter Debruge, Variety

If you need Wikipedia to explain who Mewtwo is, most of the jokes will go right over your head.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

Pokemon Detective Pikachu

How does the movie look? How are the visual effects?

Top-notch. Not only are the characters stunningly done, but all of the effects are magical.
Ashley Menzel, We Live Entertainment

You will not find a more visually striking children’s movie this year… Pikachu himself is an unbelievable special effect…it absolutely deserves an Oscar nomination.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

A triumph of character animation — one of the most stylish combinations of animation and live action in years.
Esther Zuckerman, Thrillist

The true kings of this film are members of the visual effects team…seeing the film for purely the magical VFX is worth it. – Sheraz Farooqi, ComicBookDebate

The quality of the computer animation falls far short of the basic level of competency audiences have come to expect from effects movies. – Peter Debruge, Variety

The visual effects vary wildly. – Hugh Armitage, Digital Spy

Is the movie as hilarious as the trailers suggest?

Even at its most absurd, the film is still funny and endearing. –  Julia Alexander, The Verge

It’s shockingly not that funny. – Mike Ryan, Uproxx

Detective Pikachu
(Photo by @ Warner Bros. Pictures, @ Legendary)

But Ryan Reynolds is great as Detective Pikachu, right?

It’s Reynolds who saves the day…He’s worth every penny. – Steve Rose, The Guardian

He mixes just enough heart into a buckwild character performance that it’s never too over-the-top…He has a blast, and the movie benefits from his obvious enjoyment. – Julia Alexander, The Verge

Detective Pikachu is Reynolds’ to command, his every wisecrack, protestation and throwaway aside generating a smile, a chuckle or a guffaw. – Neil Smith, GamesRadar

Reynolds’ voice has a natural snarkiness that electrifies Pikachu’s personality, though there’s also a heartwarming timbre that’ll make you love him more. – Brian Truitt, USA Today

Does he remind us a bit too much of Deadpool in the role?

Reynolds delivers an endearing comedic performance that’s closer to his subversive Deadpool schtick than you’d expect. – Joshua Yehl, IGN Movies

Ryan Reynolds playing Pikachu as a kind of fast-talking, PG-rated Deadpool never quite lands.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

Turns out, you can’t copy Deadpool tricks for the PG set. – Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

Pikachu always came across as a more PG-rated Ryan Reynolds…it always seemed like he was trying very hard to make the audience laugh. – Patricia Hernandez, Polygon

A watered-down version of the wisecracking attitude he brought to the irreverent Deadpool…a fluffy, non-talking Pokémon would’ve been infinitely more fun. – Peter Debruge, Variety

Detective Pikachu
(Photo by @ Warner Bros. Pictures, @ Legendary)

Which Pokémon steals the show?

Psyduck, a neurosis-riddled, beady-eyed chubby duck, [is] this film’s breakout star. – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

This is a very good Psyduck movie. Somehow, a Psyduck sort of steals this entire film. – Mike Ryan, Uproxx

And how’s the human cast?

It’s [Kathryn] Newton who steals [the] spotlight, making us wish the narrative revolved around her fearless, tenacious heroine and sidekick. She’s the trifecta of sweet, soft and strong. – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Kathryn Newton continues her upward trajectory and really owns this character. Her enthusiasm and determination play well. – Ashley Menzel, We Live Entertainment

Hows’s the chemistry between Reynolds and Justice Smith?

Reynolds and Smith form the adorable heart of the movie. They have great chemistry, and the slow development of their bond is both funny and emotional. – Hugh Armitage, Digital Spy

The core dynamic between Detective Pikachu and Tim Goodman is so compelling and emotionally fulfilling that my gripes pale in comparison. – Dan Casey, Nerdist

Detective Pikachu
(Photo by @ Warner Bros. Pictures, @ Legendary)

OK, so what’s the main problem with the movie?

Unfortunately, this movie’s plot is, let’s say, suspect.  – Mike Ryan, Uproxx

Narratively incoherent to the point of being almost avant-garde. – Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

As a piece of storytelling…Detective Pikachu fails spectacularly. – Julia Alexander, The Verge

You can see the beats of the mystery…coming from a million miles away, because it’s the same kind of story that’s been told a thousand times before. – James Whitbrook,

Both overstuffed and underwritten, making it seem simultaneously ambitious and lazy, frenzied and sluggish.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

Does the franchise have potential?

Here’s hoping this film is the beginning of Pokémon-inspired movie universe, because I can’t wait to see what’s next in store for the yellow, electricity-filled detective! – Britany Murphy, Geeks of Color

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu opens everywhere on May 10.

Adjusted Score: 80.349%
Critics Consensus: Pokémon Detective Pikachu may not take its wonderfully bizarre premise as far as it could have, but this offbeat adaptation should catch most -- if not all -- of the franchise's fans.
Synopsis: The story begins when ace detective Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim to find out what... [More]
Directed By: Rob Letterman

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