Dan's Review: "Shazam!" juices up the DC Universe with some much-needed fun
Apr 04, 2019 11:37PM
By Dan Metcalf
Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer in Shazam! - © 2019 Warner Bros.
Shazam! (Warner Bros.)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material.
Starring Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody, Djimon Hounsou, Grace Fulton, Michelle Borth, Ian Chen, Ross Butler, Jovan Armand, D.J. Cotrona, Faithe Herman, Meagan Good, Cooper Andrews, Marta Milans, Andi Osho, John Glover, David Kohlsmith, Natalia Safran.
Written by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke, based on characters from DC Comics.
Directed by David F. Sandberg.
If you’re suffering from a little superhero movie fatigue of late, well…that’s just too bad. They’re here to stay, and more are coming. The flood of capes and tights are mostly due to the mountains of content available in comic books, a medium with endless possibilities and scenarios. The DC folks have fallen behind fast in the wake of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but have also scored a few hits of their own, despite their inability gel their popular characters into a “team” like The Avengers. The Justice League may or may not ever really assemble into a team with any staying power, but there is hope for the DCU after the arrival of Shazam! in theaters this weekend.
It’s the story of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a foster child separated from his mother as a toddler. As he enters a foster home run by Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans), Billy keeps his distance from the other kids, except his roommate Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), a boy with a deformed leg who uses a crutch. When bullies attach Freddy at school, Billy defends him, leading the ruffians on a chase that ends in a subway. During the subway ride, Billy is magically transported to the Rock of Eternity, the hidden lair of the Wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) who has been searching for a successor ever since his super team of wizards was killed during a coup by the Seven Deadly Sins (in the form of monsters). Shazam transfers his abilities to Billy, who is able to summon the wizard’s powers by saying the name “Shazam!” transforming the 14-year-old’s body in a muscular adult (Zachary Levi). As Shazam, Billy utilizes Freddy’s geeky knowledge of superhero norms, trying to identify all his new abilities. Meanwhile, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who was also summoned as a boy by the Wizard as a possible host (but failed) funds research to find a way to the Rock of Eternity, eventually succeeding. When he enters the wizard’s lair as an adult, he frees the Seven Deadly Sins and begins his search for the wizard’s new “champion.” At the same time, Freddy’s YouTube videos of Billy (as Shazam) begin to make waves, which attracts Dr. Sivana, who threatens the lives of Billy’s other foster siblings. Billy must learn to trust in his new family if he has any chance of defeating Sivana and his Deadly Sins.
Something that has been missing from the DCU is the element of fun. Shazam! delivers plenty of much-needed fun into the franchise that up until now has taken itself way too seriously. Instead of all the brooding and darkness of the Batman, Superman, and Aquaman installments, we get a little sophomoric silliness and wonder. We’ve seen some of that fun in Wonder Woman and The Flash’s participation in Justice League, but not enough. I don’t know if Shazam! will find its way into the Justice League team scenario, but it would be a welcome addition for a group that up until now has mostly relied on melodrama. There are hints of such in the end credit scenes, so stick around for that.
Zachary Levi is perfect as a boy trapped in an adult’s body, much like Tom Hanks was able to capture the same magic in Big (there’s also a subtle homage to Big in the movie if you’re paying attention). The rest of the cast is equally complimentary, giving a realistic view of outcasts who have to rely on each other to get through some tough situations. Jack Dylan Grazer is a great supporting sidekick, providing the heart and soul of a superhero movie experience from a young point of view.
So, before you march into the epic Avengers finale later this month, take a break from the nervous anticipation and have a fun little superhero movie vacation with Shazam!
If you like comic book superhero movies at all, I think you’ll enjoy it.