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Pokémon Detective Pikachu

A talking critter helps a boy search for his father in this charming family film
© Warner Bros. With the help of a fuzzy, yellow Pokémon Pikachu, Tim (Justice Smith) searches for his father.
     When detective Harry Goodman goes missing, his estranged son Tim (Justice Smith) journeys to Ryme City to look into the disappearance. 
      Ryme City is a rare place in the world of Pokémon. Founded by billionaire Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), who cherishes the Pokémon-human relationship, the city is populated by exotic creatures that accompany their humans everywhere they go.
      Now an insurance adjuster, Tim long ago gave up his dream of becoming a Pokémon trainer and living in Ryme City. Searching his father’s home there, he finds a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), a fuzzy yellow Pokémon, roaming the apartment. 
     Even more surprising: Pikachu speaks.
     Humans and Pokémon have historically been unable to communicate. So Tim is surprised that the Pikachu speaks perfect English. It turns out the critter used to belong to his father but has no memory of the man. In spite of Pikachu’s amnesia, the critter may be the key to cracking the mystery of Harry’s whereabouts.
      I come to this review with little knowledge of Pokémon. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Snorlax and a Magikarp, but I was able to follow the story and enjoy the odd array of fantasy creatures. Don’t feel you need to have caught ’em all to understand what’s going on. I did, however, bring a Pokémon expert along with me, and he assured me there were plenty of inside jokes that will deepen the viewing experience for fans of the games and show.
    With colorful creatures and a sweet message, this fun family film has something for everyone. Kids get references to the games and enjoy the show, plus some colorful animals. Adults get to enjoy the banter between Pikachu and Tim. Director Rob Letterman (Goosebumps) does a great job crafting a world filled with wondrous creatures; every frame brings something interesting. 
     The plot is made for kids. Several twists and reveals are painfully obvious to anyone who’s ever seen a movie. Dialogue can be wordy, with certain characters speaking as though they’re straight out of an over-caffeinated noir.
     Still, Pokémon Detective Pikachu is entertaining. Most of the credit goes to Reynolds, who voices Pikachu excellently. Full of wry wit and lickety-split jokes, his Pikachu is a wonderful guide to a fantastical world. 
      Whether you’re an expert Pokémon trainer or barely know what a Pikachu is, you’ll find entertainment in this film. Amusing for adults and enchanting for kids (plenty were yelling out the Pokémon species as they appeared onscreen), Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a crowd-pleaser. 
Good Family Comedy • PG • 104 mins.
~~~ New this Week ~~~
The Hustle
     Josephine (Anne Hathaway) and Penny (Rebel Wilson) are very different. Josephine is a sophisticate British woman who appreciates the finest things in life. Penny is a boisterous Australian who loves fun and trouble.
     The one thing they have in common is grifting wealthy men out of their money. 
     Combining their skills to go after bigger targets, the two test the strength of their partnership when a naïve billionaire becomes their newest mark.
    This freewheeling slapstick comedy promises a rollicking good time. Both Hathaway and Wilson are game comediennes who can easily carry scenes. The challenge, however, will be to see if they can rise above a script that seems like a Dirty Rotten Scoundrels knock-off. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 93 mins.
     Martha (Diane Keaton) has a tough time fitting in to her new retirement community. Until it occurs to her to start a cheerleading squad. Though the women are a bit older, and creakier than in their high school days, they find that spirit has no age.
      The wonderful cast of women includes Pam Grier, Rhea Perlman, and Jacki Weaver.
     We all know this movie; we’ve seen it several dozen times. Plot points are tried and true, as is the brand of comedy. The question here is whether you enjoy the Older Woman Finds a New Lease on Life genre. Either way, don’t expect nuance or new insight into aging. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 91 mins. 
      Before there was Middle Earth, there was England. As a young man, J.R.R. Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) bonds with a group of writers. This fellowship carries them through World War I.
     How love and friendship inspired a fanciful world beloved by millions is what this biopic is all about. You won’t find the magical elements that enchant Lord of the Rings fans or, I fear, deeper insight into the man who created whole ecosystems and languages for his stories.
     To experience the wonder of the author’s mind, take a look at the Peter Jackson films or the Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. cartoon.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 111 mins.