Review: Shazam!

“Hey! What’s up? I’m a superhero.” That line alone says more about the movie than anything I can come up with. It’s a superhero film centered on a 14-year-old kid. What would you have done at 14 if you suddenly had super powers? Skip school? Have fun? Show off? Try to get away with a few underage/illegal things? Yep, and that’s exactly what makes this movie so great, because they understand what a decent kid with super powers would actually do and then they deliver. DC finally got one right.
Don’t get me wrong, a few of their last films have been good. Aquaman was fun. Wonder Woman had heart and showed feminine strength. Suicide Squad had Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Justice League…nevermind. But Shazam! leaves the rest in the rear view as it brings together all the pieces in a way that the others didn’t. Aquaman also had waaay too much storyline. Wonder Woman fell apart in the third act. Suicide Squad had Slipknot, “the man who can climb anything” and a belly-dancing mummy. And Justice League just tried so, so hard. But enough with all that because there is a lot to praise about Shazam! and I wanna talk about the movie and new superstar, but first let me give you a quick synopsis.
Basically, Shazam! is the story of a teen-age foster boy becoming a middle-age superhero, and then being able to revert back and forth by saying his superhero name. Billy Batson is chosen to be the Champion by an aging wizard and given ancient mystical powers: The wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury (SHAZAM). As he comes to terms with his new abilities and maneuvers foster home life, Billy is forced to face a villain who stole powers from the seven Sins and must find a way to stop him from stealing his new powers too. Fun fact, I didn’t know much about Shazam in the comics, but when the movie was first announced I did learn that the DC character originally shared the same name as the newest Marvel superhero to hit the big screen, Captain Marvel. Then DC finally decided to change the hero’s name to settle a trademark dispute with Marvel comics prior to their development of this film. Not an interesting story? Okay. Well then I don’t know what else to say here.
Some things that I liked about the movie: 1) The setup and delivery of the story line made sense and also felt fresh. I mean, the movie begins with the backstory of the villain. This is likely thanks to horror director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle: Creation), who along with the opening scene, also brings several other horror elements to the film. There are a few parts that actually might scare younger kids, so be warned if you’re thinking, “looks like a great family film.” It’s rated PG-13 for a reason. But back to the story, 2) the flow of character development felt real and the use of the supporting cast helped bring depth to characters who could otherwise have been very flat and unimportant. 3) There was a family theme that ran start to finish but also wasn’t over-the-top cheesy, and even worked well with the villain, Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong). Although the overall performance of his character was a little weaker than I would’ve liked, 4) his reasons for existing didn’t get too complicated with backstory and his motive was simple and down-to-earth: find the champion and take his power. 5) Another great piece of the puzzle were the jokes and comical moments. They hit home. It seemed like my entire theatre was laughing several times, and you don’t normally get that in superhero movies, at least in DC superhero movies.
6) The two main boys in Shazam!, Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Grazer, really do a great job considering that this is each of their first big roles (although the latter was also a lesser character in IT), but the standout by far is 7) Zachary Levi. “His name is Captain Sparkle Fingers.” Best known for his television titular character Chuck, he was also the voice of Flynn Rider in Tangled, and has recently been added to the cast of season two of the award-winning show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which I highly recommend watching if you haven’t already). He is a phenomenal actor who I still somehow feel is “up and coming,” even though he has been notable for over a decade now. He brings tons of charisma and humor to this superhero, and really delivers in his attempt at 14-year-old feelings, actions, and lingo. Like I said above, he does what a teenager would do and makes decisions that we expect a teenager to make, except with a grown up body.
Other than all that, just go see this movie. It really is the best recent DC Extended Universe installment and I would be excited to see where they take the character next and also how they team him up with the other DC heroes. Cheers!

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