Director: David F. Sandberg
Cast: Zachary Levi, Marta Milans, Michelle Borth, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Grace Fulton
Written by Andrew Kulubi
Any child who grows up reading comic books and watching superheroes wishes that they could be a superhero, right through the gate Shazam fulfills that wish and I’m floored by it.
Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a 15-year-old child wandering the streets of Philadelphia looking for his long lost mother while trying to avoid child protection services but along the way, the protection services catch up to him and put him in a foster home. There he meets Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), a disabled but charming and charismatic boy of his age who is obsessed with superheroes. After a sudden turn of events, Billy is summoned by the wizard Shazam who gives him his power and every time Billy Calls out the name of the wizard he turns into a super-powered adult played by Zachary Levi donning bright red tights and a white cape. It all sounds outlandish and childish and it is, but it works.
There’s very little I can say against this film. Shazam is a warm, sweet, charming and funny family film that harkens back to the 1978 Richard Donner Superman film but also carries a dark edge like the kid’s films of the 80s; The Goonies, Gremlins, and Labyrinth. It does something which is extremely rare for the superhero films of today which is to focus on the slower family moments and character interactions and less on the action set pieces. That’s not to say that it lacks in action and spectacle in any way, those sections of the film are well integrated into the story and pack a lot of fun.
Zachary Levi is the perfect embodiment of a child in a grown man’s body, he perfectly captures the excitement and wonder of a child given immense power that seems almost limitless at some points. I am however unable to believe that he and Asher Angel play the same character since their attitudes are completely different but I like Asher Angel nevertheless. Their antagonist ‘Dr. Sivana’ is played by the brilliant Mark Strong who turns in another excellent performance perfectly walking the line between campy and ruthless. The rest of the supporting cast i.e. the foster family is all great, they all do a good job but by far the best performance in the film is from Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman. This kid is going places! His charisma is instantly magnetic, his line delivery sublime, his timing flawless and his energy infectious. Every second with him on screen is captivating and every second without him, he is greatly missed.
The film could, however, use more style with its visuals and the world could look a little more vibrant given the lively and energetic tone of the story. The costumes, however, are amazing especially the one worn by our main character. It’s bright, colorful and I really appreciate the practical approach. The emblem on his chest is a bright yellow that glows and it’s all in-camera which is a detail I appreciate since in a lesser film it would have just been this throwaway aspect of the costume that’s implemented using computer-generated imagery.
Overall Shazam is a heartwarming film that packs a lot of humor, fun, some surprisingly horrific and thrilling moments but carries uniquely emotional touch for the whole family. I really loved this movie and would wholeheartedly recommend it.