Movie Review – Shazam! (2019)

Shazam, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review.

3.5 readers, can we stop for a minute and think about how badly DC/Warner Brothers have screwed the pooch when the movie about the character who is like the joke of the extended DC catalog ends up being one of the better films they’ve made so far?

I just…I can’t even.  I mean, I’m glad it was good, but I wish all the other DC films leading up to it had been better.  This, Wonder Woman.  That’s it.

The plot?  In some sort of faraway scary place, a good wizard (Djimoun Hounsou) is forever using his powers to keep demons in the form of the seven deadly sins at bay.  The wizard constantly calls upon a slew of kids in the hopes he will find the one who is true of heart enough to take on his power so he can rest.  The demons do the same, except when their person comes along, they’ll get to go to earth and wreak havoc.

Long story short, foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is that kid.  Dubbed worthy, he’s given the wizard’s power as well as the alter ego of Shazam.  Whenever he shouts that magic word, he becomes a big, strong, powerful and yes, adult superhero (Zachary Levi plays Billy in Shazam form.)

Movies where kids take over adult bodies are in abundance and they usually start off as silly and funny and then take weird turns where you cringe as you hope the writers have sense enough to steer the kids trapped in adult bodies away from adult situations.

Here, the writers manage to navigate those choppy waters deftly and to humorous results.  As Billy tries to learn the extent of his newfound powers, how to use them, how to control them, he is joined by his foster brother, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer.)

Most of it is about what you expect if two fourteen year olds were suddenly given vast power.  They abuse it wantonly, and in the funniest ways possible.  They test the limits of Shazam’s power by setting him on fire, throwing him off buildings, getting criminals to shoot him in the face.  Each time Shazam emerges impervious the boys laugh and cheer but the audience is left to think, “Well, wait, what if Shazam hadn’t been impervious to fire, falls, or face shootings?”

Thus, the differences of youth, who think they are invincible and adults, who have been beaten down enough times that they know better than to dive into something headfirst, though maybe this keeps adults from achieving their full potential more than they realize, while this also gets kids into trouble more than they realize.

Eventually, Shazam squares off against Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) the film’s villain, who wants Shazam’s power as his own.

Walking Dead fans will rejoice to see Jerry aka Cooper Andrews in a fairly big film role as Billy’s foster father.  Go Jerry.

My main criticism is we are left to wait awhile for Shazam to arrive on the big scene.  The first part is dedicated to setting up Dr. Sivana’s origins and once you shlep through that, the fun action of two teenage boys who have control of an adult superhero’s body and so they pretty much send him to buy beer before anything else unfolds.

But really, my main criticism is how badly the DC film universe was rolled out, how there was so much potential and had they invested a bit more time into it, it could have been something but they worried more about getting anything out there than getting something good.

The film references Superman and Batman, the kids being fans of the Caped Crusader and Man of Steel.  However, a Superman cameo from the chest down, though funny, just tells me that DC/Warner Brothers doesn’t have their crap together the way Marvel/Disney does.  That cameo would have been a hundred times better with Henry Cavill and surely would have tied the movies together.  Marvel/Disney has been able to get big actors to drop by in cameos in their films so it just strikes me as there not being the same ability to tie these films and bring all the actors together.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

 

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