Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a 14-year-old kid who’s been in the foster care system since he was abandoned by his mother. Teleported to a magical realm by, The Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) as a sort of last-ditch attempt to find ‘the chosen one,’ Billy is given superpowers that he can activate whenever he says “Shazam!”
It’s clear that Shazam! has set its sights on the barely-teen demographic, and for the most part, it delivers decent family-friendly entertainment. It felt like a mash-up of The Goonies and a Power Rangers movie, though it struggles to set a consistent tone and the visual effects are just okay.
It also struggles to get going—opting to set up the villains back story first—but gets interesting once we finally meet Shazam! (Zachary Levi) for the first time. Levi’s performance as a troubled teen inside a man’s body is so good, it literally saves the day. And the scenes where Billy and adoptive brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) explore his superpowers are the best parts of the film, which explains why they feature so prominently in the trailers.
On the villain front, Mark Strong is a capable enough baddie, but not very interesting or memorable. The screenplay tries to explore family connections, and the lingering effects of abusive/absentee parents, but never in a meaningful way. The rest of the supporting cast, however, are good, and Darla Dudley (Faithe Herman), is adorable as Billy’s younger adopted sister who loves to hug.
Shazam! is designed for kids and will entertain kids. Adults, on the other hand, will have difficulty with the film’s uneven tone and may find parts of this a little too childish.
Starring: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Djimon Hounsou, Michelle Borth, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Faithe Herman
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Screenplay by: Henry Gayden
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 2 hr 12 min.