A bit of important information for my review is that I knew nothing about the DC Comics character prior to seeing this film. As I get older, the more comic book movies we get, the sooner we inch closer to me having no idea who is who anymore. That's not to say that these movies still can't be good, in fact, I felt a sense of excitement, blind to who this character could be, and discovering a brand new hero. This is a character I couldn't pre-judge on any previous iterations. Now, I may not know who Shazam! is, but Zachary Levi makes him a delightful hero to follow, but that's not before he's an unknown orphan boy by the name of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who begins his quest searching for his mother or a family, and finds his super powers in the process.
The screenplay from Henry Gayden is balanced, filled with the right amount of laughs, emotions, and well staged action scenes. He starts with Billy's sad beginning, rising from the gutter to hero. He is separated from his mother, sending him on a path of isolation, as he runs from foster home to foster home, and constantly searching for parents that didn't go out looking for him in the first place. His new foster home has a bit of promise and he gravitates to his roommate Freddy (Jack Dylan Glazer), who has an obsession with superheroes, which comes in handy when an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou) bestows upon Billy the powers of seven mythical gods. It all wraps up into a red super suit, the abilities of super strength, electricity out of his fingers, and a bright golden lightening bolt on his chest. With a shout of the word SHAZAM! He is now a super boy with the body of a super man.
As previous superhero narratives have done, one might expect a standard origin story, where the hero gains his powers and already knows what he's doing. That's not the case here. Sandberg does a great job of not being in a rush, allowing us to enjoy Billy and Freddy having fun together. They break concrete on Billy's head, he shoots lightening from his fingers, and does not quite nail the whole flying part yet. It's not an instant process because Billy is still a kid, but he has to grow up fast when the evil Sivana (Mark Strong) comes baring his powers of the seven deadly sins (taking form in the shape of nasty, demon looking figures that will certainly scare anyone under 12). They fight in a battle of strength, wits, and to discover who is worthy enough of baring the bolt of Shazam!. As the story progresses, Billy must decide what route he will take, protecting his new family, or run away from the man trying to take his powers?
Besides the story being lighthearted and fun, Shazam! is a good movie that understands how to pace itself. Although the film feels flawed in how different Billy and Shazam! are in age, it makes up for any problems with how laid back it all feels. Something tells me Sandberg is a student of films such as The Monster Squad, Goonies, Oliver!, or Big. It's not just another standard superhero tale, but it has a message about how teenagers can be forced to grow up quick, whether they like it or not. It's a well layered message that I gravitated to, especially with Zachary Levi delivering a breakout performance, looking like a body builder, with the bright smile of a teenager with his new found powers. Shazam! is not just a movie to be excited about, it's downright electric. I thought it was awesome and that's a welcomed shock.
Written by: Leo Brady
STARRING: ZACHARY LEVI; MARK STRONG; DJIMON HONSOU; ASHER ANGEL
DIRECTED BY: DAVID F. SANDBERG
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Last year, Instant Family was a film that attempted to shine a light on the process of foster children and blended families that bond together to create a house of love. I thought that movie stunk, in a lame attempt at making people feel good, and helping Mark Wahlberg inch closer in his efforts to become father of the year. What I did not expect, however, was that this year, the exact same message of family and love, would come from Shazam!, another superhero movie that never feels like a superhero movie at all. Director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out; Annabelle: Creation) brings the DC character to life with plenty of humor, emotional gravity, and enough heroic action to keep us thoroughly entertained. Shazam! is a delightful, electric experience, that all audiences should be excited for.