In a world where Pokémon live in the wild, Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) struggles to find his purpose. When his estranged, detective father goes missing under mysterious circumstances, he ventures into Ryme City in search of him. But the city isn’t any sprawling metropolis; it’s the only place where humans and Pokémon have learned to peacefully co-exist. That’s when he encounters Pikachu. Tim’s ability to understand the wise-cracking little Pokémon leads them to work together in search of Tim’s father, Harry. Tim and Pikachu begin to uncover the strange world of Pokémon and the larger scheme at play in Ryme City.
The absurd, yet adorable set of live-action characters from the anime Pokémon universe took the gaming world by storm in the mid-90s. The massive success of the games lead to expansions into TV series, comic books and animated films, so it shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that it’s the latest attempt by a film studio to convert the franchise into a movie universe. It’s a pretty bold move by Warner Bros. to introduce us to such a ridiculous premise, but the risk pays off. Chalk it down mostly to the endearing title character Pikachu, played by the actor at his irreverent best – Ryan Reynolds. He infuses the tiny, yellow, rodent-like creature with a distinct personality that instantly draws you into the film. The best scenes involve Pikachu bringing in Reynolds’ trademark impromptu humour and witty dialogue with both his Pokémon counterparts & humans.
This helps keep the film’s charming energy afloat, mainly because most of the human roles are quite bland. It’s no fault of the cast; Justice Smith is pretty good as Tim Goodman, but we don’t feel as much for his quest even though it is integral to the plot. The same can easily be said about the rest of the humans. Fortunately, the world of Ryme City is so well realised as a place that captures your imagination, making you wish it existed. The production design and visual effects are virtually seamless, and never take you out of the film, which is a massive advantage. Whether that’s enough to distract you from a clumsy plot and screenplay, depends on how much of a fan you are of the franchise. But Reynolds and director Rob Letterman manage to keep you entertained enough in this fun popcorn film, and might just be enough to convert young non-fans into Pokémon trainers.