⭐⭐⭐ based on 1 review.

tl;dr: A surprisingly competent superhero movie wrapped around the most ridiculous superhero in DC's canon.


DC HeroesDC: Extended Universe


Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Shazam! was a bold choice of character for DC to throw out there. On paper, it's a ridiculous plot that only really makes sense within the convoluted copyright context that led to the character even becoming part of the DC universe in the comics. A young boy is arbitrarily given incredible power by a wizard, allowing him to morph into the most powerful adult in the world by simply yelling "Shazam!" – and yes, that does mean he's more powerful than Superman. Even with Zachary Levi (admittedly a solid meh from me), Mark Strong (now we're talking), and Djimon Hounsou (yes please!) on board, I was dubious.

Despite that, Shazam! kinda works. Almost. Sort of. Levi is good as an immature asshat who is suddenly given a huge amount of power and responsibility. His child co-stars are all pretty solid too. Mark Strong does the villain thing well, though ultimately the whole deadly sins angle is a bit weird. Then again, the whole thing is a bit weird, so you end up forgiving it that conceit. What I won't forgive is that the design of the Sins doesn't work well. They're 50% gargoyle from Ghostbusters, 50% demons from Hercules, so they fall into a sort of villain uncanny valley where you're never sure if you should fear them or laugh at their antics. Plus, when you've got a source material as iconic as the deadly sins, you just go for the obvious analogies. Gluttony should be fat, Sloth should be slow (but probably pack a punch or use some kind of projectile attack), etc. None of that happens here. There is a larger Sin, but it's not Gluttony. In fact, they're so nondescript and hard to tell apart I'm pretty sure one of them gets called by two names at different points. They're forgettable and dull, in other words.

Which is largely fine, because the Sins don't even matter that much. They're more just a foil to keep the plot moving along. The real meat of the story is Billy's battle connecting with his new family. It's hardly a novel plot thread and it's pretty much the basis of over half of the superhero stories out there, but it works here. It gives the film some heart, it makes you root for the various characters, and it gives the ending a pretty badass feel, honestly. I don't know if the rest of the adult-kid ensemble really nail their roles – it does feel a bit stilted, particularly for the younger kids – but it's a nice moment nonetheless. Although, I did spend a solid chunk of the movie expecting Freddy (the main brother) to turn out to be a young version of Mr Glass and actually be the one pulling the villain's strings. I'm glad they didn't go down that route, but he definitely gave off some evil, living-vicariously-through-the-hero, manipulative vibes.

Oh, and that ridiculous not-a-cameo at the end. It was stupid but it made me laugh 😁 I think it sums up the whole film fairly well. On paper, it's a bad movie, but somehow it just about manages to be more than the sum of its parts. It's far from amazing and it won't become iconic, but it's a much better attempt at Shazam as a character than I ever thought we'd see.

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