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A Superhero Film Done Right: A Review Of 'Shazam!'

After an onslaught of superhero films trying to be something else, Shazam! reminds us of that feeling when we were teenagers opening comic books for the first time.

 

Shazam! stars Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer

 

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a teen orphan who has bounced around from family to family after getting lost in a carnival in Philadelphia when he was just a young boy. In present day, he is causing so much hijinks, including trapping a couple of cops in a pawnshop just to access their onboard computer to track a plate number he believes belongs to his mother. Unfortunately, it does not. And when the cops catch up with him, Billy is sent to another foster home again, in hopes of finally setting him straight.

Unlike his previous families, the Vasquez couple were also orphans and are more relaxed so the atmosphere in their home is more, well… homey. Here, Billy meets his new siblings: the smart and sassy Mary, the very quiet Pedro, the gamer Eugene, the always energetic Darla, and the disabled but very optimistic Freddy. They try their best to make Billy feel like he’s part of the family.

 

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Asher Angel is Billy Batson and Jack Dylan Grazer is Freddy Freeman in Shazam!

 

At school, after Freddy meets the unfortunate end of a bully’s car, Billy reluctantly springs into action to defend him. A chase ensues which leads Billy to a train heading straight to the Rock of Eternity. Inside an ominous looking cave, Billy meets a scary wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who senses his pure heart and grants him the chance to be his champion. All Billy has to do is say the wizard’s name, “SHAZAM!” He is then transformed into a superhero (Zachary Levi) and he runs straight to the only person he knows who’s obsessed with superhero shenanigans, Freddy. What happens next is a cross between BIG, Superman, and Stranger Things. And it’s super, duper fun.

In essence, Shazam! is every teenager’s dream come true: become a super hero! And in actuality, it’s what all superhero movies should be: a movie that’s fun when it’s supposed to be fun and it’s dark when it needs to be dark. But not too dark. Unlike Marvel movies like Iron Man, which grounds itself towards realism, Shazam! is simply a comic book come to life. And that’s what makes it so darn good.

 

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Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana

 

There’s a play for it to be part of the DC movie universe but it comes off as so natural it doesn’t feel forced at all. If anything, along with the success of Aquaman, Shazam! might just help DC bring new life to their much-maligned cinematic universe.

Director David F. Sandberg somehow manages to mix good lighthearted fun with truly scary moments and monsters, evident of Sandberg’s horror movie background. The cast all ham it up. Zachary Levi is perfectly cast as an adolescent boy trapped in the body of a superhero. Mark Strong as Thaddeus Sivana is intimidating and is a great foil to Levi’s boyish charm. Story-wise, Shazam!’s third act has such a generous amount of fan service that if this were a Marvel film, it would have been the premise of an entire movie.

Shazam! is effortlessly good. Like a kid suddenly given powers and told to have a ball with it, DC’s latest superhero movie succeeds in transforming a silly backstory into something worth exploring for several sequels. P.S. Be sure to stay for the post-credit scenes. There are two!

 

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Catch Shazam! starting April 3, 2019 at IMAX theatres, Director’s Club and SM Cinema branches nationwide. Book your tickets through the website, www.smcinema.com or download the SM Cinema mobile app.  You may also follow SMCinema on Facebook and @sm_cinema on Instagram for updates!