April 5, 2019 5:54:26 pm
Shazam! movie cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou
Shazam! movie director: David F Sandberg
Shazam! movie rating: 2.5 stars
The rate at which superhero films are coming at us, guess we shouldn’t really be surprised that both Marvel and DC comics would come out with a film on a character called Captain Marvel (yes, Shazam’s other name) within a month of each other. Or that Hounsou appears under a heavy weight of disguise in both.
A long story lies behind how Captain Marvel that first originated in DC Universe ended up in Marvel’s. Anyway, Shazam! doesn’t concern itself with it, its origin story being a more Earth-bound tale of a 14-year-old lost as a child who accidentally stumbles into his powers. Sandberg (more known for horror) doesn’t just tell the story with a lot of humour, he manages to resist the easy temptation of tuning up the melodrama.
Considerable credit should go to Angel, who plays Billy the 14-year-old who, after an encounter with a wizard holding off literally the “seven sins”, can transform himself at will into the superpower-ed grown-up Shazam (played by Levi). Angel isn’t the teary-eyed innocent orphan one has come to expect in films about heroes and the like, but a stoic teen with no special qualities either of goodness or malice. He got separated from his mother at a fair, and has since been looking for her, running away from a succession of foster homes.
He has now been parked in a new foster home, which could only have sprung out of a politically correct wet dream. The parents are a mixed race couple raising six foster children of various ages, sizes, skin colour and races, and including a disabled boy. But again, what could have become too good to be true actually turns out to be quite a nice mix, with Grazer in particular impressive as the talkative Freddie who, hampered by a crutch, has learnt up everything on everything “to be noticed”.
Shazam! works best among this home, the children, and particularly Angel and Freddie, who develop an easy, sparring friendship. Required to play a 14-year-old in a grown-up’s body, Levi sportingly gives it his best shot. And the first scenes of him discovering what all his superpowers are, helped by Freddie — who, among other things, is also an expert on supermen — are the film’s best. Levi is delightful in his excitement, at both his powers and all that the grown-up status brings him: access to beer and women, for example.
It’s also a relief to have a superpower film not burdened by the dark clouds of questions, uncertainty or death, as has become the new template. It’s ‘cleverest’ trick is juxtaposing a family that disintegrates, against one that is not bound by blood but love. Shazam! is more intent on having fun, and mostly achieving it too. It falls short though in the action department, starting with Hounsou’s act as the wizard that almost comes across as comical, and including the always-impressive Strong who surprisingly makes no impact.
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