7/10 What’s that up in the sky? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a movie that’s way better than “Captain Marvel”! Lame Superman jokes aside, “Shazam!” was a much needed palate cleanser after watching the dreadful “What Men Want”. As more and more superhero films flood cinemas, superhero films have to really stand out so they don’t just get lost in this endless genre of disposable films. “Shazam!” stands out by taking the perspective of a teenager in a superhero’s body, adding some great humor (who knew a DC film would be funnier than pretty much every Marvel film?), a lot of heart and some life lessons along the way. Despite being first and foremost a superhero origin story with some comedic elements, this film was funnier than most straight up comedies I have seen in a long time (certainly this year at least). The foster family element and the unity and chemistry that those characters share felt authentic and was very moving material. There is definitely character development with most of the characters, particularly our lead character as he goes from a loner to having incredible powers to getting cocky and full of himself to being humbled and learning what is really valuable along the way. The acting is really well done when it comes to all of the kid/teenage actors, particularly Jack Dylan Grazer who really stands out and Zachary Levi kills his role and you can tell is just having a blast playing this character. The film’s homage to the Tom Hanks classic “Big” was also a fun and tasteful moment. There is somewhat of a twist near the end with the foster family that I really enjoyed as well. As for the negatives, there are a few. When the kid in the beginning of the film first goes to the wizard’s lair after the car accident, the lair looks like a set and somewhat low budget. Upon seeing the same set later in the film it looked better but something about the first time we see it looked off. The film’s score is also pretty generic and somewhat cliché for a superhero film. Some of the school elements of the film are also very unrealistic. Characters whom gain powers also learn their powers at really inconsistent rates. It takes our protagonist a while with a bunch of trial and error to learn his powers but other, sometimes younger characters, learn their powers almost immediately. The two biggest complaints are with the hero and villain. Whenever you have a hero like Shazam or Superman or Captain Marvel, they are just so powerful that they seem to almost have no weaknesses. When they get into a fight, you never feel a sense of danger for them because no matter what the villain does to try to defeat them, nothing works. If a hero isn’t vulnerable in some way (at least Superman does have kryptonite), they are way too powerful to relate to and we never worry about them in dangerous situations and this film has that problem. As for the villain, he is just rather generic as a character. Because the script doesn’t make him an interesting character, Mark Strong’s performance is rather one note (and he is a great actor) because he doesn’t have much to work with. In the end, these negatives do prevent the film from being great but this is still definitely a good superhero movie that will put a smile on your face and has a lot of heart and humor to it that most superhero films attempt but fail at. The DCEU is starting to make some positive changes and after the mediocre “Aquaman”, “Shazam!” is a shot of electricity to the superhero genre and you should go check it out.
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