WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
In Billy Batson’s case, by shouting out one word—"SHAZAM!"—this streetwise 14-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult superhero, Shazam, courtesy of an ancient wizard. Still a kid at heart, inside of a ripped, godlike body, Shazam revels in this adult version of himself by doing what any teen would do with superpowers: have fun with them! Can he fly? Does he have X-ray vision? Can he shoot lightning out of his hands? Can he skip his social studies test? Shazam sets out to test the limits of his abilities with the joyful recklessness of a child. But, he’ll need to master these powers quickly in order to fight the deadly forces of evil controlled by Dr. Thaddeus Sivana.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
It would be fair to say critical reception to D.C live-action films have been mixed over the years, and I’m not just talking about the current post-Nolan period. Well before the acclaim of Wonder Woman and the harsh critiques of Suicide Squad, some folks didn’t enjoy 1997’s Batman & Robin (10% percent on Rotten Tomatoes) because it was just too over the top. And of course let’s not get into Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The balance between seriousness, action, comedy and kid-like wonder has been hard to achieve. That’s why Shazam! is so, so special amongst all these films. It takes the fun of a classic young adult movie like The Goonies and mixes it with relatable angst while balancing that all out with a whole lot of comedy.
Zachary Levi is the perfect superhero lead for this perfectly-weighted comic book film. He’s easy on the eyes, funny and emotes the kind and generous nature of the boy-next-door in a buff man’s body. It’s also worth mentioning the dedication he displayed in becoming Shazam! Consuming lean calories and working out twice a day for months meant that seeing him kick some bad guy butt with ease was very believable.
One of Zach’s two main scene partners, Jack Dylan Grazer - who plays the affable Freddy Freeman - is also fantastic. He was me in high school: a nerd who is differently abled than his classmates. While I don’t know if the character in the film also has cerebral palsy like me, one thing I do know for sure is that seeing myself and my crutch reflected in some small way on screen was refreshing and pretty freaking awesome because I don’t get to see that often.
Zach’s other main scene partner is the British actor Mark Strong who plays Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, a baddie with a very sad backstory. Whereas Shazam is pure childlike fun and light, the doctor is pure darkness. This is a role where Mark thrives. He seemed to embrace it totally, and it shows.
The rest of the main cast is made up of a home of foster children and their two loving foster parents (Rosa and Victor Vasquez), played by Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews. That loving brood is really the beating heart of this film and brings a new depth that I wouldn’t have expected from a lighter film.
I loved Shazam! and with a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes I know I’m not the only one who is grateful to have a comic book origin story that isn’t all navel-gazing darkness. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for that type of movie; it’s great when they get it right, but not all the time.
For now with Shazam! D.C has got a much-needed dose of lightning in a bottle, and I can’t wait to see more. Hopefully, with some more of the delightful cast and the much-hyped but never-seen (in this edit of the movie) Black Adam as played by Dwayne Johnson.