Action Adventure

Review: ‘Shazam!’ Brings Comedy and Family Values to the DCEU

April 5, 2019Ben MK

Call it the Marvel Cinematic Universe's brooding younger sibling, but the DC Extended Universe is perhaps best known for having a generally darker overall tone than the competition. However, all that began to change with Aquaman, and now with Shazam!, the DCEU has fully embraced its comedic side.

Starring Zachary Levi as the titular superhero, Shazam! follows 14-year-old Billy Batson (Andi Mack's Asher Angel), an orphan with a penchant for running away from his foster families, all in the name of his quest to track down his biological mother, who abandoned him when he was 3. However, when his latest stunt sees him run him afoul of the law, Billy finds himself given a second chance. Taken in by a kindly couple named Victor and Rosa (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans), Billy doesn't waste any time plotting his next escape. But his plans are quickly thwarted when events take a turn for the extraordinary.

After coming to the defense of his new foster brother, Freddy (It's Jack Dylan Grazer), Billy ends up being chased by some bullies. Seeking refuge in the subway, Billy is inexplicably transported to a mysterious, cavernous lair, where a decrepit wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) awaits to bestow his powers of electricity, super strength and lightning speed upon him. For the villainous Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) has unleashed an ancient evil — demonic manifestations of the seven deadly sins, whose sum total powers rival that of any wizard — and it now falls on Billy — who finds himself transformed into a super-powered, adult version of himself — to stop it.

Before he can do so, however, Billy must come to the realization that it's not the powers that define the hero, but rather what he chooses to do with them. Luckily, he'll have a little help from his newfound family — including foster siblings Darla (Faithe Herman), Eugene (Ian Chen), Pablo (Jovan Armand) and Mary (Grace Fulton) — who are there to lend their unwavering support, in more ways than one.

Directed by David F. Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation), Shazam! marks a radical departure for the DCEU. Yet, despite being the franchise's most lighthearted and family-friendly entry by a mile, it's clear that the filmmakers have also invested the time and effort into making these characters relatable, with the young cast doing a superlative job holding their own against their grown-up counterparts, who are tasked with keeping the story in line with the prototypical superhero movie framework.

That said, the result's occasional reliance on tried-and-true comic book archetypes by no means undermines its effectiveness. In fact, if anything, it only highlights just how entertaining Shazam! is. Let Gotham have its Dark Knight and Metropolis have its Man of Steel. Shazam is the people's champion — and he's here to remind moviegoers that you can have your cape and still have fun being a kid too.

Shazam! releases April 5th, 2019 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 12 min.

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