Humor and heart are the true superpowers of “Shazam”
The thing about superhero movies is that they spark up conversations within friends and fan sites. They discuss about the accuracies, tone, or casting of the main superheroes, their origin story, and their comic book creators. I’m not one of those people, so I can’t give you any comic book details. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see their movies.
“Shazam” is the latest feature from the DC Universe, which holds a steady balance between comedy and drama, thus possessing the genes of “Deadpool” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Wrong comic book universe. No wait. I almost forgot. “Aquaman” was funny, too. So, now we’re right on topic.
We meet young Billy Batson (Asher Angel from Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack”-never watched it), a streetwise kid, who hijacks a police car in order to track down his long lost mother’s (Caroline Palmer) whereabouts. It’s the wrong mother, apparently, so he can cross that off his list.
He ends up in a Goonies foster home, with a disabled superhero fanatic named Freddie (Jack Dylan Grazer, one of the Losers’ Club members from “It”), who has a replica of the Bat dart. After dodging some school bullies, Billy ends up being teleported to another dimension, and in the realm of a dying wizard (Djimon Hounsou), who needs him to be humanity’s savor, all by saying his name. What’s his name? Shazam!!
Zachery Levi is now Billy’s superhero ego, complete with red tights and a lightning symbol. His only superhero guide is Freddie. Together, they learn that he charges iPhones with his electronic fingers, runs super fast, works on trying to fly, and is old enough to buy beer and wings at strip clubs.
And what wouldn’t be a superhero movie without a super villain? Mark Strong plays Thaddeus Sivana, who is so emotionally damaged by his abusive family and the wizard that he eventually finds away back into the wizard’s realm. He now has the power to conjure up supernatural demons known as the Seven Deadly Sins, and eventually duels with Shazam.
“Shazam” was directed by David F. Sandberg, who started off with a variety of short subjects, and went on to direct such the horror hits “Lights Out” and “Annabelle: Creation.” I could care less for those two flicks, but “Shazam” works in a lot of ways. It spoofs the DC universe without feeling so awkward, allows Levi to hold his comical manly charms while playing a kid in an adult body, and the special effects allow him to have fun.
But what I really admire most is the emotional touch given to both the hero and villain. One lost his mother and doesn’t want a new family; the other wants revenge on society. While we’re laughing at their honest gags, we end up supporting these characters. Kudos to Levi, Strong, Asher, and Grazer for being themselves.
I was annoyed at some of the dialogue and a few cliches the other foster kids have, but I’ve seen these elements done worse in other movies. If the filmmakers couldn’t afford to have Henry Cavill cameo as Superman, then you know it has hilarity; and if it has kid actors, then you know it has emotions. “Why so serious?”
Opens Everywhere April 5