Campy 'Shazam!' Helps the DC Universe Finally Have Some Fun Directed by David F. Sandberg
Starring Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Djimon Hounsou
Published Apr 05, 2019The DC Extended Universe needs a hero, a bright shining light to cut through the darkness — in more ways than one. Instalments in the floundering film series, including Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, were panned for their bleak tone and washed-out palette, while taking the opposite approach on Aquaman was too campy to be taken seriously.
Good thing is, Shazam! doesn't want to be taken seriously — and that's what makes it one of DC's best instalments so far (only behind Wonder Woman, of course). Shazam! turns the mould of zany, tongue-in-cheek hits Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool, into a squeaky clean package that pokes fun at the deluge of superheroes movies as of late, all while telling a heartwarming, family-friendly story. It doesn't try to do anything new, but it's definitely got plenty of heart.
The film follows foster teen Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who's given mystical powers by an ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou), turning him to an impossibly buff, super-powered adult (Zachary Levi) whenever he says the word "Shazam!" Angel's surly delivery as teenage Billy is unable to match the absurdity of the situation, though his many co-stars, including precocious rising star Jack Dylan Grazer as affably nerdy, crutch-using sidekick Freddy and Mark Strong as the villainous Dr. Sivana, rise to the occasion.
The film takes off once Levi takes the reins as adult Billy, and his offbeat, comedic charm immediately clicks with the film's campy style, like Big meets Superman. With plenty of humour to buoy the film's by-the-numbers plot, Levi and his adept supporting cast deliver the thrills and the laughs in equal measure, gaining momentum as it races to a thrilling conclusion.
Shazam! is the rare DC movie that doesn't take itself too seriously, allowing for the humour and charm to truly come through for an enjoyable, albeit trite, watch.