Not only is the title SHAZAM! fun to say, but it also represents the joy that is coursing through this entertaining spin on a superhero film. It’s no secret that DC has been hit or miss with its movies, but with SHAZAM!’s fantastic cast, incredible heart, and clever winks to the audience about the genre, this is a welcomed break from DC’s tendency of showcasing the dark and dour.
Rebellious orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is constantly moving from Philadelphia foster home to foster home, paying more attention to trying to find his mother, who vanished years earlier, than making relationships with others. But when he arrives at his latest home, run by two loving foster parents, Billy’s life changes forever. One night, while on the subway, strange things start to occur and all of a sudden Billy gets off at the wrong stop. Only, it’s not the wrong stop… he has actually been chosen to take on the powers of the ancient wizard, Shazam. Whenever Billy screams SHAZAM!, he turns into an adult, superhero version of himself (Zachary Levi).
After some trial and error with his foster brother and friend Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Billy discovers he has some pretty awesome superpowers, including flight, strength, speed, invulnerability, and lighting (aka Captain Sparkle Fingers). And on the human side, he has the power to buy beer and enter strip clubs. But the fun doesn’t last for long when Shazam meets his supervillain nemesis, Doctor Sivana (Mark Strong). As a kid, Sivana was tested by the wizard Shazam to see if he was worthy to take on the powers, but he failed the test. For decades, Sivana tried to find his way back to Shazam and take the test over and take on the superpowers. But his quest leads him down the wrong path, and he ends up going to the dark side. Now it’s up to Billy and his foster family friends to learn the power in themselves and save the world from Sivana and the demon minions he unleashed on the world.
Of course some may compare SHAZAM!’s main plot of a kid trapped in an adult body with such classic movies as BIG and 13 GOING ON 30. But it takes this familiar concept and runs with it, morphing into a more innocent DEADPOOL with tons of inside references and satyrical jokes about other superheroes and superhero movies. SHAZAM! strikes a perfect balance of fun references and easter eggs, while not taking you out of the movie. Without giving too much away, some of my favorite moments in the film were the tests to uncover Shazam’s powers and the clutch usage of a batarang. Did the action sometimes verge on silly? Yes. But it’s hard to fault a movie that is so much fun to watch and you can tell was so much fun to make. Make sure you look out for an homage to a famous scene from BIG.
Zachary Levi is the heart of the movie and I cannot imagine that the film would be successful without him in it. I have admittedly been a diehard fan of his since I first saw him in CHUCK, and his performance in SHAZAM! is so pitch perfect, it’s almost like the part was written specifically for him. Levi jokes that he is like a kid himself, and that sense of wonder and excitement shines through in his performances. It’s totally believable that Levi is playing a kid trapped in an adult superhero’s body. Shazam may get his power from magic, but it is Levi’s performance that really is the magic behind this fun and heartwarming film.
If you listen to no other advice from me, please make sure you go see SHAZAM! this weekend. I don’t suggest this solely because I want to support this fun take on the genre, but also because I want you to have a fun experience at the theater before what I can only imagine will be a fairly stressful experience for AVENGERS ENDGAME. Think of it as a nice palate cleanser. And don’t forget to stick around for an end credit scene that is already setting up a potential sequel. Fingers crossed!
My Review: A-