Jack Dylan Grazer and Zachary Levi in a scene from the movie Shazam!.
Jack Dylan Grazer and Zachary Levi in a scene from the movie Shazam!. Steve Wilkie

MOVIE REVIEW: Teen superhero has pow factor

SHAZAM!

Three and a half stars

Director David F. Sandberg

Starring Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong

Rating

Running time

Verdict Superfun

 

THERE'S nothing particularly special about runaway foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel).

But Djimon Hounsou's ancient sorcerer has failed to identify a more worthy successor - despite an eons-long search.

And the Seven Deadly Sins are already wreaking havoc on Planet Earth, having been liberated by Mark Strong's embittered villain, Dr Thaddeus Sivana.

So with his last breath, The Wizard Shazam transfers his demon-slaying superpowers to a reluctant Batson, by way of a magical staff.

The troubled 14-year-old quickly adjusts to his newfound ability to transform into a dorky adult superhero (Zachary Levi) - what teenage boy wouldn't get off on being stronger than Superman and faster than lightning?

Zachary Levi (left) and Jack Dylan Grazer in a scene from Shazam!
Zachary Levi (left) and Jack Dylan Grazer in a scene from Shazam!

Shazam and his crippled foster brother, Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), a comic book enthusiast with a lacerating line in disability humour, cut class to test the depth and breadth of these nascent super-strengths - with an adolescent disregard for consequences.

There's a very funny scene in which Shazam learns he's bullet proof - the hard way - during an armed hold-up at a convenience store.

Carried away by the moment, Freeman decides it might just be the ridiculous superhero suit that's stopping the lead - so he instructs the bandits to shoot Shazam in the face, which they do.

There's a brief pause for our protagonists to register the alternatives - before Shazam proves invincible to the new volley of slugs.

Zachary Levi (left) and Mark Strong in a scene from Shazam!.
Zachary Levi (left) and Mark Strong in a scene from Shazam!.

But a hero's journey is always about more than his physical strengths and limitations.

Batson has never recovered from a traumatic childhood incident in which he was briefly separated from his mother who then mysteriously disappeared. Sivana has a serious father complex.

Deep-seated trust issues are perhaps the one thing these two have in common.

Batson's emotional immaturity means he initially can't conceive of Shazam as much more than a supercharged party trick, but Sivana is playing for keeps.

The superhero is the only thing standing between him and the powers he has devoted his life to unlocking.

When the vengeance-minded villain and his guardian demons kidnap Batson's foster siblings, the troubled youngster is forced to make a stand.

Zachary Levi (centre) and Jack Dylan Grazer in a scene from
Zachary Levi (centre) and Jack Dylan Grazer in a scene from "Shazam!

The latest action fantasy in the DC Comics stable might not be very deep, but it is a whole lot of fun.

The buddy triangle - between Freeman, Batson and Shazam - works well.

And there's plenty of comic mileage to be had in the child-in-a-superman's body routine - Levi milks the opportunity for every last laugh.

Now that DC Comics are lightening up a little, audiences are responding in droves.

Opens Thursday



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