SHAZAM! It’s good to see that a DC Comics’ movie is actually capable of having a sense of humor and some amount of heart to go with it. In contrast to the bleak moodiness of most of the previous DC works, this amiable film literally embraces an inner child by embracing the adolescent male revenge fantasy of being able to transform oneself into the sort of sudden superhero capable of fending off bullies and the slings and arrows of the teenage years. Such is the circumstance of the 14-year old foster child (Asher Angel) who can instantly become an adult demigod (Zachary Levi) of himself with the ability to shoot lightning from his hands by merely saying the titular word. (Wonder why it never worked for Gomer Pyle?). He’s not so much like the similarly orphaned Superboy as he is a reverse version of Tom Hanks in BIG (1988), which is alluded to in the movie, with really cool superhuman abilities. Screenwriter Henry Gayden doesn’t have any qualms about borrowing from other material and much of the storyline feels a lot like the first Tobey Maguire SPIDER-MAN (2002) where Levi’s (THE STAR) man-child goes about the somewhat awkward process of learning what his newfound powers are while shamelessly basking in his sudden fame and adulation. There are times in these sequences when the adult seems way more childlike than his wise and wary beyond his years juvenile counterpart. I suppose every flick of this genre requires a power-mad villain and we get the obligatory one in Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) who appears to be a cross between Superman (There he is again.) bad guy Lex Luthor and Donald Pleasance’s eye-scarred Blofeld in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967). The work is at its’ best when it highlights the crisp interplay between Batson and his disabled, wise-cracking foster brother/”manager” (Jack Dylan Grazer) Freddy while the over-the-top climax is rather tedious and overly laden with visual effects that feel like they belong in another, more inferior movie. The good thing is that this film manages not to take itself so seriously since it understands perfectly well that its’ source material was a piece of ‘70s Saturday morning television “schlock” so low-budget and lacking in relevance that it shared its’ program slot with an Egyptian superheroine named Isis. That it clings to these roots with a lack of pretentiousness and self-seriousness works to its’ advantage and benefit. CRITIC’S GRADE: B-
CLOSING CREDITS: As is the case with Marvel movies, DC’s SHAZAM! has some post-credit scenes whose purpose appears to be moving the current story forward. In the first sequence, Dr. Sivana is now locked in a prison cell where he continuously draws the hieroglyphic like symbols of the seven deadly sins. He hears a voice and sees a hologram type image who’s revealed as Mister Mind, a telepathic green alien worm from the Monster Society Of Evil from the DC Comics world. Earlier in the movie, Mister Mind was seen trapped in a jar in the Rock Of Eternity which was smashed and allowed him to escape. His presence likely foreshadows his appearance in a follow-up depending on what the global box office grosses look like. In the second sequence, Shazam pretends to be talking to a goldfish in an effort to trick Freddy into thinking he can communicate with fish. When the superhero reveals his ruse, Freddy tells him that such a power would allow him to command an army of billions in the ocean. Was this a self-referential “dig” at AQUAMAN (2018) or a hint of a possible crossover movie to come? Stay tuned.