Gomer Pyle’s catchphrase was “Shazam!” with a drawl. With DC’s Shazam! many joined the erstwhile private in uttering that phrase as the studio of dour and dark turns up the lights. Shazam! delivers a relatively family-friendly, and definitively family-oriented film with this campy Zachary Levi outing.
In contrast to the ultimate hard knock life origin story of perennial foster swap kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel). Enter Shazam! Enter empowerment. A lot of empowerment.
Levi plays learning super skills inventory to the hilt with bestie Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer). The exploration of powers offers a very fun set piece on seeing that a new superhero can do the one thing all kids want to do: fly. And it doesn’t go so well. But because Shazam is really a kid in a beefy body and not a disillusioned adult, he shakes off failure and goes after flying feats again, and again and again.
The Villain of the Piece
And Shazam will need to fly as he battles Doctor Thaddeus Sivana, the long-time Shazam wanna be played evilly enough by Mark Strong. Sivana isn’t my favorite villain, but unlike some weaker villains, he clearly wants what Batson has. He has wanted it a long time and he is willing to go to the end of the Earth and beyond to obtain the power of SHAZAM! even as that means unleashing the seven deadly sins on the world.
So the film isn’t without darkness, but it isn’t really all that dark because you kind of know what Shazam is going to figure it out, defeat the back guy and make things right. It’s kind of like a dark and horrifying future stuck in your closest with a disarming grin on its face that says not to take it too seriously.
I appreciated the end of the film as Shazam’s other siblings find their inner hero. That put a nice big super bow on what is sure to be a franchise. I hope that DC doesn’t go down the path of Batman, thinking that now that they have produced a romp, its time for a little reckoning. Think the contrast between The Bruce Waynes of television and Burton, to Nolan’s Dark Knight. We don’t need a Dark Shazam! ever, nor do we need him to rises (yes, I know that makes no grammatical sense, but if I just said “rise,” people might think it was a sexual innuendo.)
Shazam! will not have you weeping in the first 30-seconds as Batson’s family disappears, though that kind of happens. I appreciated the emotional grounding, the tension, and the challenge, but in the end—hey, magic!
You will not find an intellectual challenge, deep mythos (though there is shallow mythos), Captain Marvel (either of them—well, anyone or anything that says or hints at Captain Marvel unless you bring that with you), threats to your self-worth or your view of the world in Shazam—nor will you find too much worry about our current condition. Shazam hits fantasy on all cylinders save for its commentary on the failure of the foster system and the even bigger issue that we need a foster system in the first place. It also points out the real social good that people who give of themselves to children in need can bring to the world.
The climax of the film takes place in a carnival. Perfect. It continues to play off the Tom Hanks ploys of Big. Earlier, the film brings a lot of smiles as Shazam dances across the ivories in the only toy store on the planet that wasn’t filled with Disney, Star Wars and Marvel toys.
Go enjoy. Leave the trauma of end of the world behind and take in the fresh popcorn and cotton candy infused air of Shazam!
You can enjoy Shazam! on digital 7/2 and on Blu-ray and DVD on 7/16.
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