“Finally! DC has made a fun movie!”
It’s easy to see that the executives at Warner Bros. and DC Comics have been listening to the fans in wanting funnier and more light-hearted superhero films after the super dark and very adult previous films. With ‘Aquaman‘, they literally threw in everything and the kitchen sink into that film to bring a wild, chaotic affair that was silly, yet fun in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way. There is much more of a balance with ‘Shazam!‘ and dare I say it in my most impressive imitation of WWE’s The Rock – “Finally! DC has made a fun movie!” I stand by that statement too as odd choice in director David S. Sandberg (‘Lights Out‘ and ‘Annabelle: Creation‘) took his cues from Tom Hanks‘ 1980s film ‘Big‘ and made a large budget superhero movie out of it, set in the universe of The Justice League. Everyone in the film looks to be having a great time on screen with their respective characters and it transfers to smiles and laughs in its audience.
The film follows a 14 year old kid named Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who is an orphan who consistently runs away from his foster homes in search of his real mom. Billy ends up in Philadelphia in the care of nice couple who are fostering five other kids, one of them being the handicapped Freddy (It’s Jack Dylan Grazer), who is a big superhero and comic book fan. Billy isn’t all that friendly though at first, especially when Freddy tries to be his new brother in the foster home. On a subway one night, Billy is transported to another dimension in and in from of a wizard who tells him the power of Shazam and that his soul is true and pure and that he must assume the powers to protect the world against evil, mainly the seven deadly sins in the form of demons from hell. All Billy has to do is utter the word “Shazam” and he instantly transforms into a muscle bound superhero, complete with cape and bright uniform and is now an adult (played by the amazing Zachary Levi).
This is where the “Big” situation hits the ground running and shows what every kid in the world dreams of – figuring out what super powers you have, which in Shazam’s case, is pretty much all of them. There are some excellent and laugh inducing scenes of Billy and Freddy figuring out by trial and error the many super powers he has now, which is done perfectly. There is even a wink to ‘Big‘ inside a toy store and big piano. Meanwhile, a man named Thaddeus Sivana (played by Mark Strong from ‘Kick-Ass‘), who we see his backstory in a series of flashbacks has assumed the powers of the seven deadly sins and seeks to destroy the world and of course Shazam.
David S. Sandberg tells this big superhero story with a bit of emotion in that we see Billy struggle with his lot in life and abandonment issues and realizing who is family really is and who his friends are, which he really never had before. On the other hand, Sandberg allows his horror roots out with the impressive looks of the demons representing the seven deadly sins, which remind me of charred cenobytes from the ‘Hellraiser‘ franchise. Zachary Levi looks like he his having the time of his life in the film playing a big buff superhero, but with the mentality of a 14 year old kid as evident in the scene when he and Freddy realize he has powers and the first thing they do when he is the big superhero is buy beer. It will make you laugh for sure. Mark Strong uses his physical presence and demeaning tone to perfectly pull of the villain, and Jack Dylan Grazer pulls off the fast-talking sidekick.
There are some pacing problems though here as the film runs over 130 minutes, but could have been cut down to under two hours. In the second half of the film, it’s more or less only fight scenes between the same people, which becomes tiresome and redundant, which ultimately leads you to not care anymore. Still, there are some great surprises in store for you here, including two end credit sequences. The music of the film is fantastic and I look forward to more Shazam! on the big screen.