Dir; David F. Sandberg. Starring; Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel. PG-13. Color. 132 min.
“Shazam!” is the type of fun family entertainment more comic book blockbusters should take a note from. The final climactic action scene is abysmal so if you’re not there with kids go ahead and leave (you’ll know when). But I’ll give this one a pass. “Shazam!” is an overall positive experience that also subtly deals with life topics and is not afraid to take a few unexpected turns. Themes such as acceptance, jealousy, loss, running from your past, and realizing who to care most about in life are explored in a way that children can relate to and learn from.
We open on a snowy back road in 1974. A young Thaddeus Sivana is alone in the back seat and is being ridiculed by his cruel father and older brother. In the midsts of a near accident, Sivana is mysteriously transported to an alternate realm where he meets an ancient wizard who’s responsibility is to protect the world from dark gods that each represent the seven deadly sins. Yes, this random teleportation to this strange cave place is convenient, but remember this is a kid-ish movie.
The ancient wizard Shazam! (Djimon Hounsou) is looking for a replacement to take over in keeping the evil things at bay. There is a catch. Whomever is chosen must be pure of heart and young Thaddeus is not. He is transported back to the car. While trying to explain what he experienced to his dad and bro a semi truck slams into the car and it nearly kills poppa. An incident the young guy never lives down.
Cut to present day Philadelphia. Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a teenage orphan constantly stealing and dodging his way from multiple foster homes in search of his mother whom he lost during a town fair as a little boy. Batson gets forced into a foster home full of good parents and other orphans where he befriends his partially crippled, comic book obsessed roommate named Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer, a standout).
Meanwhile on the bad guy side, Thaddeus has grown up, played by Mark Strong at this point, and has dedicated his life to prove this alternate realm exists. Once found he unleashes the powers of evil and nearly kills Shazam!. On his dying legs the wizard calls upon the schemey but pure of heart Batson to transfer his powers and become the ultimate goodie to save the world.
If you have not seen the trailers the young man reveals that when he yells Shazam! he transforms into a proverbial Superman type hero played by Zachary Levi. The multiple sequences of a teenager learning his powers with his “expert” best friend and how to use them positively are surprisingly fresh and comedic in ways that you do not have to be a millennial to relate to. Social media in the story is both an asset to the plot while also being poked fun at. Picture the first “Deadpool” but you’re 7 year old can see it.
The crux is the bad guy and the climax. Once Mark Strong begins to release smoke demons from his hands to kill people it is laughable. The final throw down starts out ok then feels like the studio found more money and decided why not just keep blowing things up. Plus the protagonist is in high school so there has to be bullies and they are so stereotypical. But I will give that one a pass too because that plot line has to be in every teen movie for some reason.
In the end, I appreciate the spirit of “Shazam!”. It is not awards stuff, maybe Kid’s Choice Awards, but solid escapist fun. There are some genuine moments that surprise and teach human struggle, particularly when the main character discovers what really happened to the mother he has spent years searching for. Many Marvel fans like to refer to the Avengers characters as a family. “Shazam!” is about an actual family. One that is not contractually obligated to have dinner every night. They choose to.
Suck Factor: 2out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!