Delightful and Thrilling
Shazam! is the funniest and most delightful picture so far this year. Humor and light-heartedness are two commodities one would not expect in a DC comics film of superheroes, but director David F. Sandberg and screenplay writer Henry Gayden have come up with a wonderfully eclectic mix of comedy, action, thrills, and a few scares to stimulate viewers’ senses. It’s a smash from beginning to end, and we have to thank the outrageously funny performance of handsome Zachary Levi, who has come into his own as a full-fledged movie star.
Levi shows all the energy it takes for a teen-age boy to turn into a superhero. As the grown-up Billy Batson who yells “Shazam!” and magically turns into the muscle-bulging, red-suited, hilarious, and bumbling ultra-strength hunk, Levi excels at every junction.
The film explains Billy Batson’s origin. He’s played by Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack” favorite star, the terminally cute and dimpled Asher Angel, age 16. Teen-age girls will go nuts over Angel, who is aptly named as the bucolic looking future Shazam. Already with a large following on TV, the fledgling actor will soon have movie fans around the world fainting and screaming as the result of this terrifically entertaining movie---and his adorable face!
Billy Batson is an unfortunate teen who was abandoned as a child by his mother at a carnival. Now 14, he is assigned to live with foster parents. He escaped more than 20 times from various homes. But he has landed at Victor and Rosa Vasquez’s home (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans), whose family consists of a United Nations of various colors and ethnicities. Stand-outs among the children are sweet little Darla (the incredible Faithe Herman) and geeky Eugene (Ian Chen). Billy has an instant rapport with his roommate Freddy, the equally heart-throb teen material Jack Dylan Grazer. Freddy plays a sort of Tiny Tim Dickens character, hobbling on crutches, but just as devilishly animated as Billy. Both boys are sure to become film favorites for fans, being future romantic leads in about five years.
Without giving away too much of the plot, Billy finds himself in a dark and scary cave occupied by a tall and fuzzy whiskered Wizard, played by basso profundo-voiced Djimon Hounsou. He’s rapidly on his way out and wants to pass on his powers to someone who is “pure of heart.” Billy fills the bill. The hilarity begins when Billy yells “Shazam!” (an acronym of the fabled immortal figures Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury), and he bursts his buttons when turning into the body of grown-up Zachary Levi.
Where would any of these superhero movies be without a dastardly villain?
The excellent and very scary actor Mark Strong is perfectly cast as mean and dangerous Dr. Thaddeus Sivana. He wants to usurp all of Billy’s (or Shazam’s) powers, and the two magically endowed men go at it in a bizarrely funny, cringe-worthy and massive battle of crashes, punches, and flying body crunches that would flatten an ordinary man. But these two aren’t ordinary guys, and they survive the most horrendous poundings.
The movie is one of those films that make you feel happy when you leave the theater. There are so many funny scenes. There is such a special bond between mates Levi (Shazam) and young Grazer (Freddy) that they could become the new team of Abbott a Costello of Classic Movie fame.
Shazam! is a breath of fresh air. This entertaining movie takes the comic book hero franchise to a new and better level—one of hilarity with some characters you can love and care about. Don’t miss it!
(Released by Warner Bros/ New Line Cinema and rated “PG-13” for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material.)