When you think of Pokémon who best represent the franchise, there are a number of monsters who might come to mind. There’s Pikachu, the mascot. Or maybe you’re more partial to a starter that you picked in your favorite game. Charizard is a good one — everyone wanted his Pokémon card. But the psychic clown Mr. Mime? Well, he might seem like an odd pick to highlight, no?
Apparently, The Pokémon Company certainly thought so. While Mr. Mime is a part of the original 151, which are beloved by the Pokémon fandom, the screenwriters for Detective Pikachu found that including him was initially a tough pitch. Even the fact that Mr. Mime was a part of the Detective Pikachu game that the movie is based on didn’t help.
“The Pokémon Company was a little hesitant,” Benji Samit, a screenwriter on Detective Pikachu, told Polygon. “They were like, ‘Are you sure that people really want to see live action Mr. Mime?’”
The hesitation makes sense. Even in the games, there’s something unsettling about Mr. Mime’s humanoid appearance. While it may look like he’s wearing a clown costume, the reality is that the blue and red growths are actually just a part of Mr. Mime’s body. Even the prospect of translating Mr. Mime’s pudgy face to something realistic sounds horrifying. Wouldn’t he just look like a strange, oversized baby?
According to IGN, the prospect of live-action Mr. Mime was so creepy to some at The Pokémon Company that that the Detective Pikachu director, Rob Letterman, had to ask TPC’s president, Tsunekazu Ishihara, to let him include the pantomiming monster. The plea worked — and that’s a good thing, because Mr. Mime ended up in one of the best scenes of the whole movie. Mr. Mime practically steals the show, and he does it even while looking like a balding freak.
Without spoiling too much, Tim Goodman, the protagonist, and Pikachu end up having to interrogate Mr. Mime to see if the Pokémon has any information related to their investigation. The problem, of course, is that Mr. Mime can’t actually speak words. He has to gesticulate anything he wants to say, and as it turns out, Mr. Mime doesn’t really want to be helpful to begin with. He ends up messing with Tim and Pikachu, as anything that the Pokémon pantomimes ends up becoming true. If Mr. Mime pretends to be surrounded by walls, those walls actually invisibly materialize and become a nuisance for anyone trying to chat with him.
“It was really fun for Dan and I to actually sit down to write the scene,” says Samit.
“We thought to ourselves, ‘Well, if you were going to interrogate a mime, how would you do it?’ And that’s how we came up with the idea of miming torture.”
It was a wild idea, especially for a kid’s movie based on a relatively friendly IP. The screenwriters weren’t sure if The Pokémon Company would go for it.
“We were like, ‘No way they’re going to let this stay,’” Samit says. “But then they did! And you know, and I think personally, it’s one of the funniest part is the movie.”
The scene is a riot, because not only is it a ridiculous situation, but it accomplishes those laughs by tapping into actual Pokémon lore. Mr. Mime uses his in-game powers in a context outside of battles, and that reinvention is a delight to watch even if you’re not a Pokémon fan. It also helps that the screenwriters have plenty of experience writing comedy. Dan Hernandez, another screenwriter on Detective Pikachu, previously worked on things like One Day at a Time and The Tick, which are properties with plenty of humor.
“One thing that you look for when you’re writing these characters is a strong comedic point of view,” Hernandez said. “If you look at like Seinfeld, each one of those characters as a very defined comedic point of view. And so when we were looking at all the different folks who could be in the movie, we really gravitated toward those that had sort of a neurosis or a tick. One of the great things about Mr. Mime is that there’s a very clear comedic game to play with him.”
Detective Pikachu is in theaters today.