Shazam! film review: embracing the silliness

Zachary Levi as Shazam and Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman.
Zachary Levi as Shazam and Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman.

DC’S struggles to build a connected universe of superhero movies to rival Marvel have been well documented.

But while the studio has failed to capitalise on the popularity of iconic characters like Batman and Superman, its lesser-known heroes are now doing the heavy lifting.

Suicide Squad defied critics to take in $750 million, Aquaman made a splash by raking in over $1 billion and now Shazam! delivers the kind of crowd pleaser that should also see it soar at the box office.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a 14-year-old orphan who has bounced around foster homes, getting in and out of trouble as he searches for his mother.

Given a last chance when he is taken in by a foster family, his life takes a turn when he is chosen to be humanity’s champion by an ancient wizard.

Simply by uttering the word Shazam, he is turned into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi) with an impressive range of powers.

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Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman and Zachary Levi as Shazam.

With the help of his stepbrother and self-proclaimed manager Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Billy must learn to adjust to his new body and responsibilities, while confronting Dr Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) who has released the seven deadly sins upon the world.

Shazam! embraces the silliness of its concept, delivering a fun film with plenty of heart, focusing on the challenges of growing up and the importance of family in whatever form it takes.

Levi excels as the child inside an adult’s body, part of an ensemble that is almost perfectly cast.

If there’s one criticism, it’s in the inconsistent tone. Shazam! has been marketed as the first modern superhero film specifically targeted at kids; a movie that combines the magic of Superman with the charm of the Tom Hanks ’80s comedy Big.

But it’s also been slapped with an M rating due to occasional swearing and monsters likely to frighten some younger viewers.

That aside, Shazam! will entertain both children and the child within grown-ups.

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THE ESSENTIALS

Shazam! (M)

3.5 stars

Directed by: David F. Sandberg

Starring: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel

Review by: Dave Friedlos

In cinemas now