The most interesting thing about ‘Shazam’ is that it’s a superhero origin story that does not play out like a superhero movie at all. I would actually compare it more to a movie like ‘The Goonies’ than I would to ‘Captain Marvel’, because it feels like a story that comes right out of the 1980’s era of Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg classics. In fact, if you took Donner’s version of ‘Superman’, melded it together with his classic ‘Goonies’ kids, and tossed in a dose of ‘Big’, then you might have an idea of what this movie is like. And personally, that’s sounds like a hell of a fun movie.
Well, ‘Shazam’ is a hell of a fun movie. It is filled to the brim with laughs and excitement, but it also throws in a big dose of heart that children will resonate with. Which is exactly what those old 1980’s movies I grew up on used to do in the infancy of the family blockbuster films. This movie would fit perfectly into that mold. Even the special effects in this movie seem a bit dated, but you likely won’t mind a bit. Once Zachary Levi fills the big shoes of Captain Sparkle Pants (one of many terrible names he’s given), you will be smiling too much to mind any of the issues.
The plot actually starts with the villains backstory, and while Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) is not the most memorable of villains, he is given an engaging enough story to keep you interested. We begin in the 1980’s, and a magical man named Shazam is looking for someone to replace him. Apparently, his job is to defend the world from the seven deadly sins. However, everyone becomes tempted by the sins, including a young Dr. Sivana. Which leads the doctor to a life hell bent on finding a way back to the sins. When the sins are found, that leads Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) to find a replacement quickly and that replacement is Billy Batson (Asher Angel).
Batson is the lead of the film and character that children of the 80’s will be all too familiar with. A foster child, who has been searching for his mother since he was very little, Batson has been in and out of foster homes his whole life. Yet, there is something different about the one he lands in when the movie begins. Mostly, that difference is the crippled roommate he finds himself living with. This kids name is Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) and he’s is the biggest superhero fan you will ever meet. Luckily for him, Billy is about to become a superhero.
The relationship between Billy and Freddy is the heart of the film. Especially when Billy becomes the grown up/superhero (Zachary Levi) version of himself. However, there is also a lot of other foster children that come together to develop a real family situation. This dynamic is largely reminiscent of movies like ‘The Goonies’, ‘Explorers’, or the more recent ‘Super 8’. The big twist is that when Billy says “Shazam” he turns into a superhero and a lot of fun is about to be had. In fact, the superhero testing that Billy and Freddy do might be the best in movie history.
Yet, there is also a lot of heart and soul to this movie. The emotions actually sneak up on you in a surprising way and make the whole affair more rich than you might imagine.