Review by Paul Bowler.
Shazam! is a confident and fun addition to the DC Extended Universe. Magic and monsters collide in this wildly entertaining mix of superhero action movie and body-swap comedy Directed by David F Sandberg, and written by Henry Gayden (with story by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke).
Thanks to an encounter with a mysterious ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou), when Billy Baston (Asher Angel) shouts the word SHAZAM! the streetwise 14 year old foster kid is now magically transformed into the adult superhero Shazam (Zachary Levi). Billy is still a kid at heart though, albeit one in a muscle-bound, godlike body, with incredible strength, speed, and the power to throw lightening bolts from his fingertips! Shazam delights in suddenly being an adult version of himself by having terrific fun with his superpowers. But he must also master his powers quickly in order to confront the evil Dr Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) and the threat of the monstrous demons known as the Seven Deadly Sins being unleashed on the world.
With a script that essentially feels like a super-powered spin on Tom Hanks’ 1988 comedy film Big – even paying homage to it at one point during a fight in a big department store – Shazam is a goofy adventure packed with jokes and exuberant fun. Asher Angel is perfectly cast as Billy Baston, a kid that suddenly finds himself bequeathed with incredible power and responsibility, who, along with Zachary Levi playing his amusing super-powered alter-ego, brings a gloriously frank and excitable sense of wonder to the character.
The strong emotional dynamic is enhanced further by Billy’s foster family. Jack Dylan Grazer is a delight as Billy’s nerdy foster brother Freddy Freeman, and Faithe Herman is also great as Billy’s foster sister Darla. It is this warm grounding in reality that’s the key to Shazam’s success, you become more invested in the characters as a result, and it also provides a nice counterbalance to all the fantasy elements as well.
Mark Strong is well cast as the wickedly evil super-villain Dr Sivana and provides an excellent adversary for Shazam to face-off against in David F Sandberg’s sickly directed movie. Although Shazam doesn’t have quite the same epic wall-to-wall action of more recent superhero blockbusters, the conflict between Shazam and Dr Sivana still provides plenty of crowd-pleasing superhero action to enjoy, and the exciting finale featuring the scary CGI onslaught of the Seven Deadly Sins rounds everything off in fine style.
Shazam, created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck in 1939, might be one of the lesser known comic book characters (he actually sold more comics than Superman at one point and was originally called Captain Marvel until legal problems saw the character side lined for a time until he was resurrected by DC Comics as Shazam), its great to see the character appear now in the DCEU and get a well deserved share of the limelight.
Boasting a superb cast and wry blend of action and laughter, Shazam is without doubt one of the most entertaining and funny superhero movies I’ve seen in a long while. The DC film universe is really finding its feet now!