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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Shazam!

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for Lasvegasroundtheclock.com
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Shazam! | Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Djimon Hounsou, Jack Dylan Grazer | Review

DCEU’s latest straight outta comics offering is a fun, entertaining popcorn movie with a charismatic cast and humor that’s both sharp and silly. The origin story of this sometimes-overlooked superhero includes the tale of the villain’s origin as well, with a secondary storyline on the importance of good parenting. The setting is present-day Philadelphia.

Foster child Billy Batson (Asher Angel) a 14-year-old perpetual runaway tries to find his birthmother while getting into constant trouble with the law. His newest foster home is headed by a kind-hearted couple, Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans) with five other children in their care. One is Freddie Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) a friendly chatterbox full of advice about superheroes with a collection of memorabilia.

Freddie has two bullies at the school all of the kids attend, and when Billy clashes with them on his first day, it leads to a chase onto a public transportation train that suddenly transports Billy – and only Billy – to an expansive underground cavern inhabited by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who’s been searching for someone worthy to hand his power to. You know, the usual stuff you stumble into. Billy’s not really worthy, but he’ll do. The wizard is tired of looking.

Shazam! Billy’s got a secret second identity, an adult superhero (Zachary Levi) with flight, speed, lightning power, with absolutely no idea how to use any of it. Except to buy booze, visit a strip club, impersonate a dad…

All he has to do, like it says in the Destiny’s Child song, is “Say My Name”. Boom! Instant powers, instant muscles, instant height. Quick, someone post on YouTube!

What ultimately happens to Billy/Shazam takes place when he is found by the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) who has a childhood connection to the wizard that left him bitter and vengeful. He’s got (stolen) powers of his own and controls the Seven Deadly Sins in gargoyle form. A conference room scene where Sivana gets even with his belittling father and brother is one that younger kids should avoid for its truly brutal payback.

Of course, a showdown takes place after a cat and mouse pursuit, culminating at a holiday festival. Shazam has powers that Sivana wants to absorb. Villains like Sivana are never content to have just some of the power; he must have it all, the greedy, bald, black-clad bastard. It's all or nothing with these guys.

Asher Angel and Zachary Levi ooze charisma. Both make you want to cheer them on. Levi is the draw here, and his good-natured bumbling is endearing. His comedic timing doesn’t hurt either. Angel and Grazer are perfect counterparts. Hounsou is amassing vast comic universe cred, appearing in both Marvel and DC films. Mark Strong uses his sinister face to front a malignant madman – you can name that villain in one note.

In the hands of director David F. Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation) and writer Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) Shazam! is full of relatable family dynamics, humor, loyalty, acceptance, and kick-ass action.

The cast will return yet again. Watch for mid-and-post-credit scenes. Yes, I know this is DCEU. They couldn’t resist, can you?

 

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