Release Date: April 5th, 2019
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director: David F. Sandberg
Release Format: Theatrical
Shazam is funny, light-hearted, full of exciting action pieces, and it even has a few emotional moments that could bring a tear to your eye. Wait, did I just say that about a DC movie?
I like to take a few jabs at the DCEU because of two reasons. First, I think they tried to cut corners and catch up to Marvel, which led us to an undeveloped Justice League. Second, I know and have faith that, someday, they will be able to put out awesome movies again. It looks like, at least for me, that day was April 5th because Shazam may just be my favorite DC film since The Dark Knight.
So we have this old and dying wizard named Shazam who is determined to find a worthy successor to protect the world against evil. The wizard chooses Billy Batson, a 14-year-old troublemaker who constantly runs off from his foster homes but he’s a good kid at heart. After saying the wizard’s name, Billy is granted extraordinary powers and turns into an adult superhero named “Shazam”.
That’s as vague as I can be without delving into any spoilers. Overall, it’s a nice story revolving around family and for the most part, it works. As I said above, there are a few scenes that were actually emotional and one, in particular, that made my heart drop due to the sadness of it all. Without the excellent cast, I don’t think I would have cared as much.
We’re going to go into the standout cast here in a second, but I’m so excited that Zachary Levi is finally getting his due here. He was fantastic in Chuck and ever since that series ended, Levi has been out of the loop in big Hollywood roles. With Shazam, I hope he starts to get more work because he definitely deserves it. I’m sure you’ve heard this in other reviews but I think Zachary Levi is perfect for this role. I’m not sure anyone else could’ve done better. This guy has the comedic chops and enough charisma that, if needed, he could have carried this movie by himself.
But, a reason why Shazam is so great is because of its supporting cast outside of Levi. Asher Angel is good as the kid version of Billy Batson and Cooper Andrews (Jerry from The Walking Dead) is just the best. Jack Dylan Grazer’s Freddy Freeman is entertaining throughout as well. Everyone of Billy’s siblings are likable in their own way, even if they didn’t get as much screentime as Billy and Freddy (the little sister is a scene-stealer).
Also, this movie proves that the DC Cinematic Universe can be funny. Full disclosure, I haven’t seen Aquaman yet so I can’t attest to the tone of that movie but Shazam is almost a full-blown comedy. The jokes, for the most part, land. And due to the movie’s lighter premise and tone, I don’t mind that a few dramatic scenes are cut short because of tension-breaking one-liners. Levi and Grazer are excellent together, leading to some hilarious moments. One of my new all-time favorite superhero scenes is where the two attempt to discover the extent of Billy’s powers.
I have two issues with Shazam that hinder it from hitting a “Remarkable” rating. Don’t get me wrong, Mark Strong is amazing. I loved him in the Kingsman movies and he was one of the few bright spots in 2011’s Green Lantern. That being said, his role as Dr. Sivana is pretty forgettable. Smallville fans will surely remember one aspect of Sivana’s origin story though.
My other problem is with the bullying side-arc, where two older kids continue to antagonize Freddy throughout the movie. Bullying the hero seems to be a trend in DC films these days. It was in Man of Steel, the Aquaman trailer (again, I have yet to see the man who talks to fish), and it was present in Shazam. This arc is meant for us to get more sympathy for Freddy and Billy. But, it just doesn’t click. The bullies are way too over-the-top and there is no real indicator that they are “cool” enough to even act like that in the first place. I honestly thought these two were ripped right out of Billy Madison (“O’Doyle Rules!” is all I could think of any time they were on-screen).
Verdict: Almost everything in this movie works from its comedy to its emotional moments to the exceptional cast. Chuck fans can rejoice as Zachary Levi finally gets his due with a starring role that he was born to play. Although the movie stumbles a bit due to a weak villain and cheesy side-antagonists, Shazam is (hopefully) a hit in the making. Most importantly, this is a fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Slowly but surely, DC is continuing to trend in the right direction.