Movie Review: Shazam!

Simple Review: Big time superhero! ( ain’t I clever?)

I don’t know who is in charge over at DC but I have to tip my cap to them. The DC movie universe seemed to be on the verge on imploding after the release of Justice League and all of the controversy that surrounded it. It had appeared that Marvel was the big brother that could do no wrong while DC was the little brother that disappointed mom and dad with all that movie review blog nonsense. Much like that scrappy little bro blogger, DC threw caution to the wind and gave us a movie about a superhero Fishman and another about a kid turning into a superhero by quoting Gomer Pyle. While I wasn’t a big fan of Aquaman I can’t argue with its big screen success so I took a chance with the newest DC movie, Shazam! and I can hear you through the internet waves asking ” Did Shazam! keep DC’s winning streak going or did it electrocute any chance DC has of catching Marvel?” Well, drop a quarter in the Zoltar machine and your wish will be granted with another review even Tom Hanks would endorse. 

In my never-ending crusade to bring honesty to you, my reliable reader, in this topsy turvy internet world of conspiracy theories, fake news and flat Earthers, I must tell you that my knowledge of the character of Shazam is extremely limited. I do not mean to disappoint you with my lack of knowledge of some of these comic book characters but my nerdy youth was spent cultivating a vast proficiency of a galaxy far, far away so superheroes were secondary to Jedi’s, smugglers and bikini-clad princesses. As such, I have been excited to learn about these “lesser” known superheroes and Shazam! appeared to be a fun spin on the usual origin tale. For those of you who are as uneducated in this character as I, Shazam! brings us the story of Billy Batson, a teenaged orphan who is deemed worthy by an ancient wizard to be the hero we all need by shouting out ” Shazam!” You will hear and read this ad nauseam but it does fit, this is basically putting Big and Superman in a blender, and it works!

Director David F. Sandberg is best known as a horror director that brought us such features as Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation which I found to be mixed bags of movies, but, much to my surprise, he has crafted a fun superhero origin tale with a ton of heart and emotion, as well as exciting action pieces to scratch that superhero itch. ( you might want to get some lotion for that nasty itch!) With a movie like this, visuals tend to be important to create the right tone and atmosphere and Sandberg does a great job bringing some glossy superhero shots, with my favorites being the unique transitions from teen Billy to adult Shazam, as well as mixing in a few horror shots that are legitimately creepy. Sandberg handles the more emotional moments of Billy learning about his parents, as well as trying to fit in with his new foster family, with the right amount of finesse to add depth to this origin story creating a nice human element for us to connect with. Don’t be afraid of the over two-hour run time, Sanberg keeps the film moving at a lively pace and it never feels like it is dragging and by the end, you will be shouting “Shazam!” at the top of your lungs, only to be escorted out shortly thereafter by security for scaring the kids in the theater you crazy nerd!

The direction works hand in hand with a well-written story by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke. As I stated previously, the film mixes the heroics and spectacle of a superhero movie with a touching, and sometimes sad story of family and learning that you can find that connection in different places than the traditional nuclear family. Shazam! embraces its rather unique origin story and the comedy that comes from the setup.  There are several laugh out loud moments in the movie, with one of my favorites being a joke about two characters communicating over a long distance that I don’t want to spoil but it was hilarious. There are a ton of DC easter eggs littered throughout the film, as well as a nice nod to Big that you cinephiles will appreciate. I enjoyed the fact that this is a rather small superhero movie in its scope. This doesn’t leave the city of Philadelphia and doesn’t involve world destroying machines or aliens trying to conquer the universe. It helps keep things from being too over the top or falling into typical superhero formula flicks. While the balance of comedy, action and family moments works great together the biggest flaw in the movie is the main villain which is a bit underdeveloped as we learn why he is trying to find the source of Shazam’s power but not what his ultimate goal is after he accomplishes the first goal for using this power. ( I am trying to avoid spoiling this so forgive me for being vague!) If the writers would have given us a little more development with the villain it would have added a bit more of a real threat to our hero, but as it is he works to the extent of giving us a bad guy to hiss at.

“What’s the best part of Shazam!, Movie Psycho?” you may be asking, well my friend you do not have to look any further than the cast, especially Zachary Levi. Zachary is pitch perfect as Shazam and this movie is going to endear him to kids and nerds alike. He brings a fantastic mix of goofy comedy, heartfelt emotions and when he goes into full hero mode you believe he can handle business. If you read this simple bloggers review Zack ( Is it cool to call you Zack?), know you have a new fan and I look forward to your next adventure as Captain Marv..er..I mean Shazam! The other stand out in the film is Jack Dylan Grazer as Billy’s nerdy fellow foster family member and best friend. Jack has great chemistry not only with Zachary Levi but, just as importantly, with Asher Angel, who plays Billy Batson. Jack brings a ton of geeky humor to the role as well as being the person that reminds Shazam/Billy what a gift he has been given and that he should be helping people. Asher Angel has the toughest role as Billy because his story tends to lean to the sad side as he learns the truth of his biological family while he deals with his new powers. It is the least flashy role in the movie but Asher handles it with the believability his character needs in order to balance the goofiness of his alter ego. Mark Strong gives his typically excellent and intimidating performance as the villain Dr. Thaddeus Sivana ( now that is a comic book villain name if I ever read one) with the only negative to his role being the aforementioned writing.  The whole cast is exceptional with the foster family parents and kids shining by brining likable characters to the film with a nice superhero moment for all of the kids toward the end that will have you cheering!

I could go on and on with this review but, alas, I must get back to my Batcave and get some rest before my next night as the ever diligent defender of movie-going audiences from the scourge of terrible films. As you can clearly tell, I loved Shazam! and highly recommend checking this one out in the theaters! Zachary Levi is a blast in the role of Shazam, and the movie is loaded with action, humor and heart that will appeal to even non-superhero fans so you can take that girl or guy you like that you aren’t sure is a fan of the genre and if they like it you are on your way to the land of love. If they don’t like it blame me, The Movie Psycho. I can take it because I am the movie reviewer your dating life deserves, a silent guardian. A watchful protector. Since I do that for you, how about you like, comment, follow and share this blog so we can change the world?!?!

As always, thanks for your time!

The Movie Psycho

 

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