Review: SHAZAM! Is hilarious, charming, and wholesome family fun

by Charles Gerian

“Superpowers? Dude, I don't even know how to pee in this thing.”

DC Comics and Warner Bros. SHAZAM!, directed by David F. Sandberg, is a family friendly hit that plays as a comedy, origin story, and genuinely entertaining comic book film all in one decidedly wholesome, side-splitting, and visually appealing package.

SHAZAM! Finds audiences with Billy Batson (Asher Angel) a 16 year old foster child who has been in and out of the system so many times that he makes a game out of it. His last chance ends up with the Vasquez family who have five foster kids of their own, including the physically handicapped Freddy Freeman played by IT (2017) knockout star Jack Dylan Grazer. Shortly after being adopted, Billy defends Freddy against bullies and after trying to flee from their wrath ends up being mysteriously teleported to a secret realm where a mysterious wizard (Djimon Hounsou) beckons Billy to be his “champion” to defend the world against evil...all he has to do is say the word.

Upon screaming “Shazam!”- it never gets old- Billy turns into a tall, handsome, demigod of magic powers (Zachary Levi) and does what any teenager would do: gets creative. With Freddy (a DC comics in-universe fanboy) by his side, they begin testing the powers of his new alter-ego until their fun and games puts them in the corrupted sights of one Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) who seeks to take Shazam's magical powers for world domination.

SHAZAM! Plays like a spiritual successor to Sam Raimi's original SPDIER-MAN trilogy starring Tobey Maguire in the early 2000's because it has the same giddy sense of joy and sincerity but also the same respect for its audience to know that they can handle maturity and emotion between the highflying super power spectacles. If you found yourself thinking the DC movies have had trouble striking a perfect balance between “fun” and “real”, I think SHAZAM! Might be the film to fix your problems.

At the heart of the film is a story about family. The antagonist never had it, Billy doesn't think he wants it, and his foster-family all want him to be a part of theirs. I'm sure you can probably assume where the film goes, but that doesn't lessen the emotional payoff by any stretch of the imagination. Speaking of family, this film goes a long way for the proper kind of representation that feels natural and believable without being shoe-horned and forced.

It rests on its laurels to give audiences a very modern foster family, and within that matter, a positive message about adopting as a whole.

David F. Sandberg directed ANNABELLE: CREATION for WB and his deft eye for coloring, lighting, and framing from his horror movie past pays off big time for SHAZAM! Much like Sam Raimi's horror history with The Evil Dead was a welcome fit into the world of Spider-Man. Sandberg works off a script by Henry Gayden and was re-teamed with Maxime Alexandre as his Director of Photography.

It is a gorgeous film to look at, and I found myself entranced as well by the intricacies of the wardrobe here, headed by Leah Butler who also follows Sandberg from Annabelle. Shazam's costume is a 'Marvel' to look at with a bright, striking design that looks inked fresh off a comic book page and also lends itself well to the real world without looking muted, too real, or too busy like the oft-criticized costumes for Henry Cavill's Superman, Ezra Miller's Flash, and Ben Affleck's Batman. Butler also did wonderful with Freddy's constantly changing shirts that all act as nods to DC Universe heroes like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Superman.

While you might not be lacking for Superhero movies between this, CAPTAIN MARVEL, and AVENGERS ENDGAME, if you're going to take a trip to the movies and want something that children will stare in awe at, adults with laugh along with, and both parties will be entertained enormously by, all you have to do is “say the word” and settle down with a film that- much like its hero- has a heart almost too big for his body. Hilarious, sentimental, charming, and made with honest love and care, SHAZAM! Is a knock-out.