Is “Shazam” worth a date night this weekend? Yes!
In what may be my favorite movie of the year so far, this superhero movie mixes together the best elements of classics “Big” “Ghostbusters” and the original Christopher Reeve “Superman” film. It creates a hilarious, thrilling, and even touching experience all its own.
Zach Levi might be the most refreshingly original actor to don a superhero outfit. Just go see it already!
Sometimes the biggest and best surprises come from the most overlooked and unexpected of places. The fantastic new superhero comedy “Shazam!” is rooted in a B-level hero who’s so obscure to those who aren’t comic book obsessives that one might think it has something to do with the old “Gomer Pyle” sitcom, since he said “Shazam!” every episode.
Yet thanks to an explosive star-making performance by Zach Levi as the titular teenager turned superhero, it stands as the funnest and funniest superhero movie in memory and will likely hold up as my favorite movie of the year.
This is an utterly brilliant mashup, but it boasts of its own wildly original creation complete with a surprising amount of heart and a dose of positive messaging about the importance of faith and family.
Boy loner finds his super strengths
This film is an hour shorter than the ridiculous reported three hour run time of the impending “Avengers: Endgame.” It also has the irreverently anarchic spirit of the “Deadpool” movies while being completely family-friendly. Kudos to writer Henry Gayden (in only his second feature) and director David F. Sandberg for whipping together a movie that is incredibly inventive.
So, enough already. What’s it about? In the interest of making this the same kind of joyous discovery that it was for me and my advance preview audience, I’ll give you the bare basics.
In 1974, a young boy named Thad is riding with his father and older brother to visit his granddad at Christmas, when he suddenly is zapped out of their car and thrust into another dimension where a wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) is living in a lair.
Shazam notes that he’s been trying to keep seven giant statues of monsters that signify the seven deadly sins from coming to life and ruining life as we know it. But he’s getting old and weak and needs to find someone pure of heart to replace himself. Thad is one of the humans he has hoped can be his successor. However, the kid winds up revealing a tendency towards evil and gets flung back into his car, leading to a tragic accident.
Jump 45 years later into 2019, and Thad (now played by Mark Strong) is an evil industrialist desperately conducting experiments to find his way back to the lair. At the same time, a foster kid named Billy Batson (Asher Angel) finally proves to be the one the wizard can truly trust and takes on the powers offered to him. This includes turning into a full-grown man with superpowers whenever he says “Shazam!”
A showdown for the fate of Billy’s hometown of Philadelphia awaits, complete with the seven deadly sins rampaging to life in extravagant scenes of comic horror.
Touchingly human moments of faith, family, and selflessness
Sure, that description sounds like fairly standard superhero fare. But it only explains the first half hour of the 132-minute film.
Much of the rest is rooted in a teen’s sense of wonder at discovering he can fly and withstand bullets and fire, among many other abilities, while always keeping one foot in the touchingly human tale of a foster kid struggling to make sense of life inside a new group home and school.
Refreshingly, the movie also makes faith an important yet natural part of the story. Billy’s foster parents lead dinner prayers three times during the film in a humorously relatable way. The lessons learned about the importance of family and roots, and the movie’s touching spotlight on foster care and the disabled, makes this even more of a winner. It’s good fun that’s also good for you.
Just trust me: “Shazam!” has something for anyone with a pulse and a sense of fun in their lives to enjoy. It’s hilarious and inspiring, and will hopefully bring a new sense of discovery and excitement to a genre that is dangerously on the edge of overkill.
Go see it, you’ll love it.
Overall: 10 out of 10
Carl Kozlowski is a Catholic comedian, film reviewer, and journalist who is also the founder and co-owner of the podcast station www.radiotitans.com in Los Angeles. He reviews movies for the Catholic News Agency as well as the Christian site Movieguide.org, but has also worked with secular outlets including the Pasadena Weekly, Chicago Tribune and Esquire. He has also produced and hosted comedy shows for the LA Catholic Archdiocese's charities and performed at some of the nation's top clubs and with top comics including Dane Cook and Dave Chappelle. He strives to find the way to work with both Christian and secular audiences in all his career paths.