Mr. Movie

Mr. Movie: ‘Detective Pikachu’ has lots of potential but zero success; ‘The Hustle’ hustles you

‘Pokemon Detective Pikachu’

Justice Smith plays Tim Goodman. In the Pokemon universe, most people have a Pokemon pet. Like some people don’t like cats or dogs, Goodman is not comfortable around Pokemon.

Goodman learns his estranged police detective father has been killed in a car crash. He travels to Ryme City where Pokemon aren’t wild and live side-by-side with humans. In his dad’s apartment, Goodman discovers two critical clues to his father’s death. The first is a gas that turns harmless, peaceful Pokemon into frightening, violent creatures.

The second is Detective Pikachu. He was father’s partner.

In the Pokemon universe only special people can understand and communicate with Pokemon. Inhaling the gas gives Goodman the power to talk to Detective Pikachu. They form a bond and go after the baddies responsible for dad’s death. Their investigation — with the help from a lady TV reporter — uncovers a plot by an evil corporation to take over the Pokemon universe.

I don’t know much about Pokemon other than the name Pikachu, and that he — in the late 1990s — was the best known of the bunch. To truly understand the movie, I sought out some professional Pokemon advice to take with me on that trip. The expert is my grandson Alex.

He grew up with them, is now 24 and has actually played, and won, the game the film is based upon.

Alex insisted on filling me in on the nuances of the game and the Pokemon universe. I learned that Pokemon was first a game. It became so popular that an anime TV series was started. Then there were several straight to video movies.

My grandson the Pokemon professional wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any of the inside jokes that might be found in the script. His tutoring — it turns out — was much more interesting than the movie. There are very few inside Pokemon jokes.

Ryan Reynolds gives voice to Pikachu. Who better to add comedy and witty one-liners to a film than Reynolds? In this case he gets a fail. Reynolds tries — as does Smith and the other stars — to make this movie fun and funny.

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Justice Smith, left, the character Detective Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds, and Kathryn Newton in a scene from "Pokemon Detective Pikachu." Associated Press

It is an exercise in futility.

A lot of us expected zingers like Reynolds did in the two Deadpool movies. He gets off a few but not enough to have you leaving the theater with a huge grin on your face as you regurgitate this line or that.

The short Mr. Mime bit is really funny but not much else. More Mr. Mime might have helped.

Part of the film’s troubles is four writers. They include director Rob Letterman (“Monsters vs. Aliens”) and Derek Connolly (“Jurassic World,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” “Safety Not Guaranteed”). The other two writers only have TV writing experience.

That experience shows.

As a group they never quite get to the cleverness that Letterman gave us in “Monsters vs. Aliens,” or that Connolly tossed out in the little seen but crafty, “Safety Not Guaranteed.” Instead we’re given a plot that plods along the lines of his work on the two deadly dull Jurassic World movies.

So other than some great special effects and Mr. Mime, this film fails at all levels. I’m also not a big fan of anime. Think of “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” this way: It’s live anime. The only people who’ll totally love this film will be Pokemon fans like my grandson Alex.

By the way, he liked it enough to say he’s going to see it again and that he’ll buy the DVD when it it is released. Is that a recommendation? Yes. But not from me. This one comes from Alex.

▪ Rated PG for mature themes. It’s playing at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12, at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 2 out of 5

This image released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures shows Anne Hathaway as Josephine Chesterfield, left, and Rebel Wilson as Penny Rust, in a scene from "The Hustle." Christian Black Associated Press

‘The Hustle’

Unlike a lot of critics, my policy has always been to know next to nothing about a movie before doing a review. I want zero information and influence so the review will be untainted. As I’m watching “The Hustle,” I’m thinking, “Hey, this is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”

The 1988 flick starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin as con artists. One suave and successful, and the other scrambling for a buck and buffoonish. “The Hustle” is same movie slightly rewritten to make the con artists ladies. “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” was written by Stanley Shapiro, Dale Launer (“My Cousin Vinny”) and by TV’s “The Beverly Hillbillies” creator Paul Henning.

It was a redo 1964’s “Bedtime Story” that starred Marlon Brando and David Niven.

Shapiro, Launer and Henning get credit for writing the screenplay along with Jac Schaeffer (“Olaf’s Frozen Adventure”) who changed it a bit and gave it the female protagonist update.

Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star. Hathaway is beautiful, upper class, rich and wanting to get richer. Wilson is not bad at the game but she’s a bit rough around the edges. They get along about as well as oil and water, and end up making a bet as to who can score first on a mark.

That mark is Alex Sharp’s Thomas. He’s the inventor of a popular phone and computer application. Whoever gets $500,000 from him first wins the bet.

Hathaway and Wilson have great chemistry and play well off of each other. Though Wilson is more known for comedy, Hathaway has much better comedy timing. Being drop dead gorgeous, and with one of the best deadpan deliveries working today, Hathaway is perfectly cast in the Caine role.

Wilson’s best asset is that she’s impossible not to love. I’m a big fan and always have been. Her second best asset — like most great comedians — is that rare ability to make you cry as well as laugh.

Unfortunately, Schaeffer’s third-time is not the charm script redo doesn’t let her use that one.

It would have helped. What she is forced to use in “The Hustle” is her biggest negative. Wilson sometimes tends to rely too much on stammering lines and blathering to sell a comedy line or bit.

For “The Hustle” Wilson dips too often into that well.

That may not be her fault. During most of “The Hustle” you, too, are being hustled. Even if you don’t recognize it as “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” this is as predictable as predictable con movies get. There are a few, humorous pieces scattered through this just over 90-minute redo. And — to be fair — when it’s funny, it will make you laugh out loud.

There just isn’t enough funny.

▪ Rated PG-13 for mature themes, some language. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 2 out of 5