8 / 10
Zachary Levi as Shazam
Djimon Hounsou as The Wizard
Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana
Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman
Asher Angel as Billy Batson
Marta Milans as Rosa Vasquez
Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfield
Cooper Andrews as Victor Vasquez
Natalia Safran as Mrs. Sivana
Evan Marsh as Burke Breyer
Ava Preston as Lillian Price
Andi Osho as Ms. Glover
Ian Chen as Eugene Choi
Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley
Caroline Palmer as Billy’s Mom
Lotta Losten as Lynn Crosby
Carson MacCormac as Brett Bryer
Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña
Sarah Bennani as Simone
Directed by David F. Sandberg
The Wizard, a being with the powers of the gods of myth and legend, is the last of his kind. He is on a desperate search for a champion to transfer his powers to before he dies. But as he tests children from all over the world for decades, he finds that nobody is worthy of his power. That is until he meets Billy Batson.
Billy is a troubled foster child who has gone from home to home. He’s on a mission to find the mother that abandoned him, but that mission constantly leads him into conflicts with his foster parents, authorities, and the police.
When Billy is placed at a foster home with the Vasquez family, he is a bit overwhelmed. Overnight he’s given a new group of siblings as well as a foster brother, Freddy Freeman. Though he is disabled, Freddy more than makes up for his physical limitations with his wit. He also happens to be a superhero fan. So when Billy is given superpowers by The Wizard, he immediately sees the potential of their newfound partnership.
But in a world of superheroes, there are also supervillains. Billy and Freddy soon find themselves in the middle of a conflict that has been raging for ages. Billy must master his powers and defend his new family or the fate of the world will be in jeopardy.
“Shazam!” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material.
Many fans have been complaining that the DC superhero movies were too dark and brooding. Warner Bros. seems to have taken that message to heart. While “Aquaman” served as a big shift in tone for these films, “Shazam!” pushes things even further to the lighter side. The end product is a movie that is fun for all ages and has a tone that has just the right balance of humor, heart, and action. It feels like a story stolen straight from the Marvel playbook. People have described it as “Big” meets “Superman” and I can’t think of a better description other than to add some “Harry Potter” elements in there, too. I’d also compare it to “Spider-Man: Homecoming” as far as tone and irreverence for the superhero genre.
Zachary Levi carries the film well as Shazam (or Captain Marvel as he was originally known as in the comics, ironically enough). I’ll admit that when I first saw the photos of him in costume from the set, I was expecting a disaster. That’s not the case at all. The hokey look is part of the charm of the character and it is even acknowledged tongue in cheek in the film (much like Christopher Reeve’s first appearance in the yellow red, and blue suit in “Superman: The Movie”). Levi channels his 13-year old self and provides a lot of laughs. I’ve always said the best moments in any superhero film are when the characters are clumsily figuring out their powers. That is played up extensively in “Shazam!”, but through the eyes of a young teenager. Levi’s Shazam is a character you definitely want to see alongside Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman. I look forward to seeing him battle Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam in a sequel.
While Zachary Levi is the star character, his young co-stars deserve a lot of recognition as well. Asher Angel is excellent as Billy Batson. He does a good job of portraying a troubled youth, but he still makes him likable. But Dylan Grazer really stands out as Freddy Freeman. He’s funny, energetic, and cocky. He has tremendous chemistry with both Levi and Angel. This is quite a breakout performance for him and I expect you’ll be seeing him a lot more in the future.
As strong as the leading cast is, the supporting cast is equally strong. Each of the foster children are given moments to shine. Faithe Herman is cute and lovable as Darla Dudley. Ian Chen has always been great on “Fresh off the Boat” and he gets some fun moments in the spotlight as Eugene Choi. Grace Fulton is also noteworthy as the big sister Mary Bromfield. But the adults hold their own as well. Mark Strong is always great as the villain and he continues to be so as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. There is some surprising depth to his character that I wasn’t expecting. I also hate it when the adults are portrayed as buffoons in a movie, but Cooper Andrews as Victor Vasquez and Marta Milans as Rosa Vasquez play the foster parents with warmth and humor that instantly makes them likable. You’ll want them as your foster parents after seeing this.
While the movie was pretty solid throughout, the ending is what finally sold me on it. The finale has a twist that takes the film to the next level and moves it to a place where other superhero movies have rarely gone. I won’t spoil it for you here, but the less you know about “Shazam!” going in, the more you’ll enjoy it. This is also a great family movie with great messages for kids. There are themes about family supporting each other, being unselfish, forgiveness, responsibility, and more, all of which are good for kids to hear and relate to as it’s bundled within a superhero film.
There are also two bonus scenes in the credits, both of which are worth sticking around for. Make sure you don’t miss them.
What Didn’t Work:
While “Shazam!” is overall a strong film, it does vary in strength along the way. The opening act hooks the audience as the characters are introduced. Things pick up speed in the second act as Shazam learns his powers. The third act is where things begin to falter as the characters inevitably have infighting. However, the final act saves the day with the aforementioned twist. But the unevenness is a flaw of the movie.
I was also surprised to see some pretty intense scares in “Shazam!”. There are some CG monsters that they do battle with and they do jump out for some horror-like moments on several occasions. It might scare younger children and it’s something you might not expect from the lighthearted trailers and commercials. There are also some jokes around the boys drinking and trying to sneak into a strip club that might raise the eyebrows of some parents.
The Bottom Line:
“Shazam!” is a fun superhero movie that the whole family can enjoy. It’s well worth checking out on the big screen, especially before some of the surprises might be spoiled for you. If you were dissatisfied with the tone of the previous DC movies, this may be more of what you are looking for.