Detective Pikachu delivers rollicking fantasy adventure fun

Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) and Justice Smith as Tim Goodman
Damon Smith

A SON unravels the mystery of his father's murder in Pokemon Detective Pikachu, a rollicking fantasy adventure which milks every drop of delicious deadpan humour from Ryan Reynolds as the voice of the titular rodent-like critter, who can be trained to emit an electric discharge.

A script credited to four writers including director Rob Letterman crackles with energy as a perplexing case of corporate corruption unfolds in breathless action set pieces including one jaw-dropping race for survival through a collapsing woodland.

"At this point, how can you NOT believe in climate change?!" shrieks Pikachu with tongue wedged firmly in furry yellow cheek.

As a convoluted crime caper, Letterman's fast-paced family-oriented film breathes deeply an air of preposterousness that would instantly pique the curiosity of Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and the rest of the Mystery Inc. gang.

Very young audiences will unmask the villain well before the appearance of Mewtoo and a shady scientist played in holographic flashbacks by Rita Ora.

The chief pleasure of Detective Pikachu is the rapport between lead actor Justice Smith and his digitally-rendered sidekick, brought vividly to life by Reynolds channelling a PG-friendly version of his wisecracking Deadpool persona.

Tim Goodman (Smith) receives the sad news that his estranged father, Detective Harry Goodman, has been killed in a car accident in Ryme City.

The orphaned 21-year-old travels with best friend Jack (Karan Soni) to the futuristic metropolis, which was established by billionaire Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) as the only place on Earth where humans and Pokemons coexist in harmony.

"No battles, no Pokeballs, no trainers," Jack explains to his best friend.

Tim meets Ryme City police detective Yoshida (Ken Watanabe), who provides a set of keys to Harry's apartment.

Inside, Tim discovers his father's Pokemon, Pikachu (voiced by Reynolds), who claims to be suffering amnesia after the crash that supposedly killed Harry.

"I can't solve my own mystery if I have no memory," laments Pikachu.

Sifting through his father's belongings, Tim discovers a vial of a noxious purple liquid, which transforms normally docile Pokemon into crazed predators.

A cub TV reporter called Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) is already on the case and her finger of suspicion points to Howard Clifford's power-hungry son Roger (Chris Geere).

Detective Pikachu employs slick digital trickery to surround Tim with a menagerie of weird and wonderful critters including Lucy's Pokemon, Psyduck, which reacts explosively to stress.

Smith dips his toes into his unwitting hero's well of sadness without shamelessly plucking heartstrings and there is a gently simmering on-screen chemistry with Newton's ambitious intern.

Some of Reynolds' risque asides will fly comfortably over the heads of the target audience and land squarely with amused parents and teenagers, for whom Letterman's film should be – whisper it – a guilty pleasure.

Rating: 8/10

POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU (PG, 104 mins) Fantasy/Comedy/Action/Adventure/Romance. Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, Chris Geere, Ken Watanabe, Karan Soni, Rita Ora and the voice of Ryan Reynolds. Director: Rob Letterman.

Released May 10

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