Updated: Apr 12, 2019
Let's make one thing clear, Shazam! is just what the DC Universe needed. After the brooding and dimly lit Zack Snyder beginnings, this film comes in and turns on the lights and turns up the humor. That isn't to say there haven't been bright spots along the way, such as Wonder Woman, but Shazam! feels like it can usher in a new era of DC films.
When a teenage boy is chosen by a dying wizard to inherit his super powers, we are treated to a mashup of old school Superman and Penny Marshal's Big. Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a good kid, the kind who stands up to bullies. He is also an orphan whose mother left him at an amusement park. His pure heart gets him the job as the new Shazam but he is also just a kid who laughs when the wizard asks him to "lay your hands on my staff." This duality is at the core of Shazam!, a film that is at once heartfelt and hilarious.
The film really hits its stride in its second and third act as Billy begins to explore his new powers with his aspiring sidekick Freddy (the scene-stealing Jack Dylan Grazer). Billy buys beer and sneaks into a strip club in his new adult body, just the kinds of things a teenage boy would do. He tests if he can fly, be shot, and shoot electricity from his fingers. The results are often hilarious. That is until the villain enters the scene. Thaddeus (Mark Strong) was denied by the wizard and has spent his life trying to harbor the demons that embody the Seven Deadly Sins. Shazam is the only one in his way.
Playing the adult version of Billy is Zachary Levi. This is his big break and he takes every advantage to show off his charisma. Levi is a hoot as a boy trapped in a man's body who suddenly becomes a superhero. It may take the movie a while to get going but once Levi hits the screen, the film finds its stride.
Shazam! is big, goofy fun. Sure it hits some familiar superhero beats but it does so with real heart. The script by Henry Gayden and direction by David F. Sandberg allow for a wide range of emotions. The film may be about saving the world but it plays more like a family comedy about finding your place in the world. Family is the central theme of the film and the film finishes with a warm, fuzzy feeling that has been completely absent from superhero films for a while. Levi is the real star of the movie though. It is his charm and comic timing you will remember.