There is only one remaining survivor of the Council of Wizards, and before he perishes, which admittedly could take decades, he has been trying to find a replacement, but no one seems to have the purest of heart. Enter Billy Batson, an orphan who has run away from several foster homes and schools and is trying to search for his biological mother, even if that means breaking into a police car to access their database, and stealing their lunch as he does it. Meanwhile, a guy named Silvana is trying to access the place where the wizard Shazam has taken people in search of the pure heart, examining people who say they were transported there, making it his entire life’s work. When he actually ends up accomplishing his task, the wizard has to end up choosing someone in a hurry, and enter Batson. With that, we have a superhero movie about a probably kindhearted and funny but cynical caped crusader.
The Tom Hanks 1988 classic “Big” I only ended up watching because Roger Ebert said no one came close to replicating the joy and fun of playing a kid than Hanks did, but Jamie Lee Curtis came close, in his review of one of my favourite movies, the 2003 Freaky Friday. Curious, I saw it and it was a goofy yet sweet movie and every moment with Hanks, whoa. His mannerisms and high-pitch speech were perfect. Now Zachary Levi is trying out the game, and though it feels more inspired from Hanks than his own work, and there are some noticeable missed opportunities and questionable story moments in the finished product, I can say that thanks to its surprisingly relatable, timeless and saddening portrayal of orphans and foster homes, it’s hard to finish and feel you wasted your time.
I’m not a big fan of most of DC’s previous entries. I loved Wonder Woman to the point where I gave it my highest score. But other than that...Batman v Superman was so bad that because the same director was in charge of Justice League, I didn’t bother seeing it. Teen Titans Go! To The Movies was not as bad as I was expecting, but still way too many “Oh, c’mon” moments. Aquaman was pretty fun and excellently filmed, but, while this places me in the minority, I felt Jason Momoa’s interpretation of the character was a flat and lifeless knock-off of Chris Hemsworth, making it so when he did something bad, I wasn’t forgiving. This knocked it down to a C. And sadly, I was expecting to like Shazam! a lot more than I really did, especially when it starts off on such a hilarious kicker as Billy locking two policemen in a scummy trade shop.
The antagonist is, while not the most fun to root against, definitely one with an imaginative backstory and reasoning for his troubles. He was one of the kids who had a chance to become next in line, about 40 years ago. He had an older brother and father who had mistreated him, which might’ve been one of the factors as to why he failed to keep himself together during the audition, and because Shazam rejected him, tragedy struck the family. So ever since he’s been seeking revenge on Shazam because his decision ruined his life. It would be sort of like a younger brother going after the judge that sentenced his older brother to a harsh sentence in jail.
Levi seems to be having a lot of fun here, his voice a lot higher and louder than Billy’s because his lungs are different and more stretched and he’s getting used to his new body. One critic criticized Levi’s performance saying every time he tries to be serious it looks like he’s taking a huge dump. And I think his performance can go either the best or worst way for any moviegoer; as a fun performance or as a silly performance. I found it to be mostly fun.
Some problems arise with how defiant Billy is towards his new family. It at times is a positive thing, making Billy a more layered and traumatized character, but it takes a little too long for him to open up, making a big chunk of the film feel like more could’ve been done rather than spend his time thinking about how he just wants to be left alone and enjoy his new powers via stardom. And not enough was made to convince us he would be ready to take on the powers of Shazam, which he ends up proving. I couldn’t help but feel I or one of my friends could’ve been better suited for these powers. Maybe it’s because of the good things he eventually ends up doing, or the fact the guy just got sabotaged and had to think quick. It just took a while to get over.
It also shows us that sometimes, when we wake up from a fantasy dream in our minds, the reality can be brutal. This subject is happening to real people everywhere all the time and the movie will probably educate people well who aren’t familiar with it well. The ending fight is also very delightful, especially a decision by Batson that made me grin and made me laugh when one of Batson’s friends made a tremendously effective Santa Claus joke. A sequel’s supposed to be coming up and even if this first outing was clearly not as shazam-erific as I wish it was, the ending fight has left me anticipating, and I always say the ending is the most important part for any filmgoer willing to stay to the end.
Shazam manages to, like the actual titular Billy, polish itself up in the third act after an overlong and problematic second, and it caters to family members of various groups. Have at it over a pizza.