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| 3 April 2019 | Reply

Written by Henry Gayden & Darren Lemke from the D.C. comics created by Bill Parker & C C Beck
Directed by David F Sandberg
Starring Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Djimon Hounsou, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Apart from Wonder Woman and Aquaman, D.C. Comics’ efforts to match the success of the Marvel big screen empire’s astonishing success have fallen considerably short – strange considering how iconic their big-name properties Batman and Superman are.

With Shazam! they’ve taken a look at the superhero genre with new eyes, breathing new life into the game and the result is a fun and often-hilarious – as well as touching – family friendly romp. It doesn’t hurt that here they eschew all the brooding darkness of the aforementioned properties and make a movie which is as light and breezy in tone as it is on the eye.

Billy Batson (the superbly superhero-alter-ego-named Asher Angel) is a fourteen-year-old serial foster care runaway with two things on his mind: find his mother, whom he was separated from aged three, and get to eighteen so he can escape the foster system.

After being granted superpowers by a mysterious wizard (played with over-the-top gravitas by Djimon Hounsou), the teen takes the long road to learn how to treat his new powers with respect and maturity, eventually having to man up when confronted by the pathologically bitter super-villain Dr Sivana (a Terminator-like performance from the ever-excellent Mark Strong).

To access his new powers, Batson simply has to utter the word Shazam! – an acronym, apparently, for immortals Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury – which toggles him between the street smart, kid-sized Batson and the grown-up goofy beefcake superhero (played with Jimmy Fallon-like charm and energy by Zachary Levi). If that sounds to you a little like a superhero take on the Tom Hanks classic Big, you won’t find yourself alone – even the filmmakers put a tiny toy store in-joke in there as a nod to Penny Marshall’s 1988 hit.

Batson resists the help of his new foster family full of allies at first, but soon finds he is stronger with them than without. 

Shazam! is heavy on the fun, and apart from a few mild swear words it’s good, wholesome entertainment. There is plenty of action, but even more laughs as Shazam! and foster room-mate Freddy (the superb Jack Dylan Grazer) try to ascertain what powers he actually has. Kudos also to the adorably cute and downright funny Faithe Herman, who steals almost every scene she is in as young foster resident Darla.

Make no mistake, D.C. are back in the game.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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