Pokémon Detective Pikachu (4 stars)

Pokémon Detective Pikachu

Ryan Reynolds lends his voice to the titular sleuth in this enjoyable live-action addition to the Pokémon franchise

The first ever live-action Pokémon movie is as funny as Deadpool with eccentric VFX twists. You don't have to know about the world of Japanese 'pocket monsters' – creatures invented in 1995 by Satoshi Tajiri which, over the years, have delighted millions in the form of video, mobile and card games, collectables, comics and TV shows. But the more you do know, the more you'll lap up the details of this surreal comedy thriller.

With the franchise's previous films (21 outside of TV) aimed predominantly at fans, Pokémon Detective Pikachu is refreshingly accessible to non-believers. Based on the 2016 video game, the wonderous qualities of the Pokémon critters – each with their own unique ways of fighting and evolving – frame a lively story that features the, unmistakable, patter of Ryan Reynolds, the sensitivity of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom's Justice Smith, and the fun of Kathryn Newton (Blockers). Throw in the gravitas of old-hands Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy and you've got a romp for all ages.

Tim (Smith) plays the former Pokémon trainer son of detective Harry Goodman (Paul Kitson), who, along with his cute Pokémon partner Pikachu (voiced by Reynolds), suffers a serious car accident. Harry's presumed dead, leaving only Pikachu to help Tim solve the mystery. When Tim finds he can miraculously speak to his father's pocket monster, the adventure really takes off.

Reynolds' voiceover skills are, as ever, incredible and the source of much humour and mayhem, with the actor adding in deviations from the smart script (by Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, director Rob Letterman and Derek Connolly), while Letterman keeps the pace and action cranked to eleven. Further fun stuff comes from the personalities of the Pokémon themselves – by turns hilarious, disgusting, weird, ethereal, scary, dangerous and crazy. Live-action mixed with VFX is rarely this good and, although there's a continuity error in Tim's T-shirt halfway through, you won't see a hint of uncanny valley. Quirky and lovingly crafted, even if you don't care for Pokémon, you'll love Detective Pikachu.

General release from Fri 10 May.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • Japan / US
  • 1h 44min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Rob Letterman
  • Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy
  • UK release: 10 May 2019

Tim (Smith) is a former Pokémon trainer who teams up with Pikachu (voiced by Reynolds) to solve a mysterious car accident which leaves his detective father presumed dead. Reynolds’ voice skills are incredible, you don’t need to know about the franchise to get what’s going on and it’s a quirky and lovingly crafted surreal…