Shazam! Movie Review
Zack Snyder would not approve. Shazam!, the latest DC Comics rebound from the grim, violent superhero world originally envisioned, is a loose, funny, and downright silly movie—at times—even though it’s far from perfect.
Shazam! isn’t as well known as some superheroes, but the premise is basically Tom Hanks’ Big—with super powers. A teenage boy who looks eerily like Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones (no relation, I looked it up, but also look up photos of the two of them and tell me I’m wrong) is recruited by a dying wizard to be the champion of mankind and, upon saying the word “Shazam,” is transformed into a large, bulked-up man who can fly, move really fast, shoot frikkin’ laser beams from his hands, and deflect bullets.
He still thinks and acts like a 14-year-old, however.
The boy, Billy Batson, is played by Maisie—er, Asher Angel (the most badass actor name ever, btw)—but his alter ego is brought to life by Zachary Levi, who played Chuck in the show Chuck. Levi is by far the best part about the movie and injects energy and enthusiasm into every corner of the not-as-clever-as-it-thinks-it-is screenplay.
When Levi—and in turn, Shazam—is on screen, Shazam! hums like an excited lightning bolt, zigzagging from one gag to the next in a playful dance. David F. Sandberg’s, whose previous credits have, oddly, been horror movies, seems to know exactly what to do with his titular character and is willing to be as goofy as necessary to accomplish the task. A highlight is a scene toward the end where the somewhat forgettable but not terrible villain (Mark Strong) unleashes the stereotypical “bad guy monologue,” unbeknownst that Shazam is too far away to hear a damn word he is saying.
The problem is that when Levi isn’t on screen, the movie is… kind of flat. The opening 25 minutes are surprisingly laugh free, and it’s hard to tell whether that was by design or not. Angel is good as Batson, but isn’t given great material to work with; a subplot involving his long lost mother is downright awful and a waste of five-to-ten precious minutes of screen time, and practically every scene set in his foster home is strangely lackluster, despite a cast of characters who appear ripe for amusing antics.
At two hours and 12 minutes in length, one—meaning me—wonders what Shazam! would have looked and felt like if it were half an hour shorter. The movie undeniably would have benefited from significant tightening—pace isn’t the issue here at all, but it would have forced the filmmakers to emphasize the parts that work really well and trim the parts that don’t. As is, it feels as though no one was willing to give this movie a harsh edit.
Despite its faults, Shazam! is a fun, entertaining movie that, following Aquaman and Wonder Woman, further sheds the darkness of the former DCEU—and, more importantly, the lack of quality. The movie could have and should have been funnier, but it offers plenty of reasons to check it out.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.