Jacob Richardson | 07/04/2019
A rollercoaster ride of fun that will awaken the inner kid in you.
Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a foster kid, who can’t stop looking for his mum. When he is shipped off to a brand new foster home, he suddenly finds himself amongst kids his own age; one of whom, his roommate Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is obsessed with superheroes. As luck would have it, Billy happens upon the underground lair of the Wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), who transfers his power to Billy so that he can fight the nefarious Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong). Now, whenever Billy shouts ‘Shazam’, he turns into a Zachary Levi shaped superhero with a vast range of superpowers.
For too long, the DC universe has been all doom and gloom - but no longer! First, there was Aquaman, which leant heavily into its ridiculous and upbeat side, and now there is Shazam; a movie unashamedly fun, funny and enjoyable.
The comedy is there and is strong. Mainly, this stems from a Big-esque vibe, perfectly embodied by Levi. As the costume-clad Shazam, Levi is an absolute ball of energy, constantly full of joy at being a kid in an adult’s body.
Mark Strong is also fantastic, bringing some real fear and foreboding to his role. A certain scene in the boardroom, in particular, is very creepy and will have some younger viewers spooked. But the layering of the character, built up during quite a long early prologue, is such that the villain never seems too one-dimensional.
Shazam also has a lot of fun playing on the tropes of typical superhero movies. Whether it is making fun of the distance between superheroes as they mount speeches the other cannot hear, or in a fun little sequence where Billy and Freddy test Shazam’s powers, the film consistently plays with what the definition of a superhero is.
The issues really come down to the third act and the linkages between the child version of Billy Batson and the grown up Shazam. The third act is a standard, typical superhero bust up. There are some intriguing twists with the side characters, but you can see the general fight and the inevitable outcome coming a mile off. For a movie that has had so much fun playing with genre tropes in the lead up to that act, it is a shame that it settles for mediocre at the end.
The other thing to consider is the lack of parallel personalities between Billy and Shazam. Billy is quite downbeat and dour during the film (fitting with his the drama surrounding his foster circumstances), but as Shazam, he becomes an absolute bundle of energy; a kid excited to be in the world. Apparently Levi and Angel didn’t have much interaction on set, which is a shame; perhaps their performances could have been more consistent if they did.
Shazam isn’t perfect, but it is a bundle of fun, tied up in a bright, shiny package.