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article imageReview: ‘Shazam’ is lightning in a bottle Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 5, 2019 in Entertainment
‘Shazam’ isn’t as flashy as its DC counterparts, but it brings a lot of heart and laughter to the screen as a superhero movie suitable for the whole family.
For a long while, comic books were thought to only be meant for kids. Flip that around and you have a lot of kids reading comic books. Although, the stories were more sophisticated than many people gave them credit and they served as an enthralling escape from the monotony of everyday life — especially if you didn’t fit in very well with your peers. But as much as anything else, kids dreamed of becoming the heroes they read about… when they grew up. But why wait? Why couldn’t a younger person grow up immediately and be instilled with super powers? In Shazam, a teen boy literally becomes a super-man in the blink of an eye.
Billy Batson (Asher Angel) has been in the foster system most of his life. In spite of being placed in good homes, he refuses to stop scouring the city in search of his birth mother. His last chance may be at a group home with possibly the nicest and most understanding foster family of his life. Billy is immediately befriended by Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), a boy around the same age who’s obsessed with superheroes and has a bad leg. But Billy is taken for an even bigger loop when a wizard of sorts (Djimon Hounsou) grants him the power of Shazam, which also happens to make him a 30-year-old man (Zachary Levi) in tights and a cape. Confused, he asks his new brother for help. But they don’t have a lot of time to practice because the supervillain, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), is coming for his new abilities.
This movie blends the superhero origin story with Tom HanksBig and the result is a very entertaining action movie aimed at kids, but still enjoyable for adults. The storyline is fairly straightforward, while also delivering a significant amount of character development so audiences can connect with the individuals at the tale’s centre. Family is a major theme throughout the film as Thaddeus was never accepted by his and Billy is still looking for the right one. But this focus also lends itself to possibly one of the most heartfelt (not sad) climaxes in a superhero movie… and then it gets a little sappy.
It’s surprising how many adult-oriented jokes can be incorporated into a film while still keeping it entirely clean and PG; particularly as they manage to include more than one trip to a strip club. The humour runs the gamut from low-brow laughs aimed at kids to comedy that will likely go right over younger viewers’ heads. But they have a lot of fun with the concept of a 15-year-old being transplanted into a superhuman body twice his age, from clumsily stopping thieves to buying their first beer. Some of the picture’s most amusing scenes are when they do ability experiments, testing whether Shazam is stronger, faster, invulnerable, can fly, become invisible and anything else they’ve read in a comic book or seen in a movie.
Audiences shouldn’t expect the explosive action that generally defines other movies in the genre. Although there are a number of fights, they’re comparably low-key and usually one-on-one. Shazam and Thaddeus spend most of their time flying into one another, exchanging blows and then pummelling one another into the ground; then they repeat. Consequently, these scenes fall a little flat — especially when released smack-dab in the middle of Captain Marvel’s and Avengers: Endgame’s theatrical runs. But it finds other ways to appeal to audiences.
Levi is perfectly cast in this role, portraying a boy in a man’s body who’s eventually forced to grow up and make tough decisions in order to save the world. Most importantly, as audiences get to know the teen boys before this electrified revelation, his performance is wholly convincing as an extended version of his younger self that’s not over-the-top or out-of-place. When Shazam is entertaining the crowd with lightening from his hands, it looks exactly like something a teenager would do — so much so, you could imagine one superimposed over the other. Likewise, Angel and Grazer are equally impressive as their characters struggle with being teens with an enormous secret and an insurmountable imbalance in their abilities. In spite of focusing on two/three characters, this is very much an ensemble movie as Billy’s entire foster family makes notable contributions to the movie’s enjoyment.
And in the end, that’s exactly what this is — a likeable, kid-friendly superhero movie that everyone can appreciate… and a bit of a surprise from horror director, David F. Sandberg, who also rules the cafeteria in the post-credits.
Director: David F. Sandberg
Starring: Zachary Levi, Djimon Hounsou and Mark Strong
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