Animated movies can appeal to both adults and children, but Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You doesn’t treat either with any respect. The film, a soft reboot made to
celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original television series, is as dumb as a Psyduck, and as dull as a Metapod. The vast majority of the adult audience looking for a rush of nostalgia will be left feeling let down, and it’s just as likely that children, with their Ash Ketchum hats, will be just as disappointed.
The first portion of the film is actually quite charming. It takes fans back to the first few episodes of the show as Ash begins his journey. Pikachu is adorably reluctant to join Ash, and once Ash shows how much he cares for the Pokémon by saving him from a flock of Sparrow, they become best pals. Despite this great blast from the past, the film starts to limp its way to the finish line, as Ash and his friends are adventuring in the Kanto region. On their way, they try to find the legendary Pokémon Ho’oh, but in this iteration, Ash is the “Rainbow Hero” after it drops a feather on him, making him destined to battle the powerful being.
The script is not worthy of a movie theatre. The characters have no development, lack any personality, and their dialogue is extremely cringe-worthy, at times even laughable. For example, Ash defeats a gym leader and is handed a rainbow badge, followed by a back and forth exchange that’s suitable for a child who watches highly expository programs like Dora The Explorer on a regular basis.
Unlike past Pokémon films, there is no substance to the plot. It lacks stakes, real conflict, or even an actual climax. The battle between Ash and Ho’oh that was teased throughout the film abruptly ends after merely a minute or so. This makes the final act feel more like an anti-climactic fever dream that just comes and goes, rather than a powerful moment to keep viewers intrigued.
It also beats away at your nostalgia for the original series by ruining Pikachu in what most fans will likely refer to as one of the strangest, most laughable, and horrid moments in the history of the franchise. During the climax, Ash looks to Pikachu as they are being attacked, and asks, “Why won’t you go into your ball?” Pikachu then suddenly, and shockingly, says “It’s because I always want to be with you.” At this point, the crowd erupted in hysterics, appalled at the sudden, and rather unnecessary, decision to make Pikachu speak.
There are a few positives to the film, however. One cannot ignore that 2D animation in the cinema is extremely rare in a CG dominated market. Even though the animation looks similar to a TV budget with a lack of detail and less than stellar CG to add visual effects, the cells add an extra layer of emotion to each character’s eyes. It’s such a breath of fresh air. The battles, which are few and far between, also are thrilling to watch. The action on screen is fast and the visual effects of clanging and sparks add to the impact of each attack.
Despite the flawed but serviceable animation and some well-crafted action scenes, there are just as many technical aspects that completely falter. The score is so heavy-handed that it completely takes you out of any emotional scene. The performances are also incredibly wooden, but in all fairness, the actors aren’t given a whole lot to work with.
Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You has its moments, but they make up very little of a film that also features an awfully childish script, poor structure, and heavy-handed music. If you are a diehard fan, you may find something here. However, if you want to go back to your childhood, it could very well be ruined, because this movie is Farfetch’d.
(Featured Image: Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You, Toho)