Starring: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Mark Strong
What’s it all about?
At first blush Shazam! seems to be about a boy who meets an old homeless dude in a subway tunnel, says his name aloud, and then is able to use that name as a conduit to become a bumbling superhero… but underneath all that it’s really a story about family and friendships.
It starts off quite slowly with a very deliberate first half hour, to the point where I was concerned it was dragging on too long. However, once the origin/backstory is set aside, it develops into a fun romp with its tongue squarely in its cheek.
As it proceeds I started to feel a bit of a Big vibe, in the way that the central relationship plays out, right down to a funny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it homage that I’m sure was a nod to those who had recognised the similarities.
I’m a fan of Zachary Levi from his television work on Chuck, and – as this role is not a million miles away from that one – he slips easily into the superhero spandex here, giving a confident performance that is an easy paycheck for him. The rest of the cast I can take or leave, to be honest. Mark Strong feels like nothing more or less than your standard comic book villain, and the supporting children are fairly forgettable on the whole. They aren’t all that good, but then again, they’re not too bad either. This is Levi’s movie, and – combined with the sharp script – he is the primary reason that this works.
Watching it with the kids…
This is a family friendly movie through and through, with only the very young and sensitive who may be a little frightened by the monsters and demons on display here, but there’s no gore and no blood. There’s some mild language to be aware of, but it’s extremely tame, and nothing more than what you will hear in any playground.
I’m not an avid fan of superhero movies, so it takes something a little different within that genre to make me sit up and take notice. Shazam! manages to do that, and it is because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. How can it? It’s a movie with an exclamation mark right there in the title. It’s not dark, gritty, or edgy, like a lot of these comic adaptations try to be, and that’s absolutely fine.