Sunday, April 14, 2019


Shazam! – I'm told Captain Marvel, released around the same time as this movie, was pretty good. But between the two movies, both based on characters originally named Captain Marvel, this was the one I wanted to see, and I enjoyed it very much. It features teen newcomer Asher Angel as a frequent-runaway foster child named Billy Batson who has been looking for his mother since, when he was very small, they were separated in a crowd. A desperate wizard played by Djimon Hounsou lays the mantle of the powers of SHAZAM on him - wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, courage of Achilles, speed of Mercury - and tells him that he must defend the world from the demons who embody the seven deadly sins.

Unfortunately, those demons have already been unleashed on the world, thanks to the revenge of the previous boy who didn't prove to be as pure of heart as the job description required. That failed candidate, now grown up and played by Mark Strong (remember the villain in 2009's Sherlock Holmes?) goes on an evil rampage, while Billy and his mildly disabled foster-brother mess around with his new superpowers, which (among other things) turn him into an adult, played by Zachary Levi. Other cast members include John Glover as the villain's father, Michelle Borth (of the current Hawaii Five-O), Adam Brody (of TV's The O.C.), and Cooper Andrews (of TV's The Walking Dead).

The upshot is an engaging blend of boyish goofiness and superhero-fantasy action, climaxing in a carnival battle between the demons and Billy's SHAZAM-ified family of foster siblings. Troubled kid learns lesson about loyalty to the found family he didn't actually set out to find. Unlikely candidate for being "pure of heart" enough to carry the mantle of SHAZAM, proves to have more going on under the cape than anyone would have guessed. Schoolyard bullies get the "suitcase wedgie" they've been dishing out, as a fringe benefit of having their lives saved from a freak carnival accident. With special effects that relied a little less on boring billows of smoke, it would be a just-about-perfect piece of family entertainment.

Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) The boys use Billy's adult-hero look to buy beer at a convenience store - then try it, spit it out in disgust and go back for snacks. (2) The kid finally finds his birth mother, only to realize she isn't his real family. (3) Forced to discover his powers one at a time, young Shazam figures out how to fly only inches from going splat on a freeway overpass... then discovers his invulnerability when a truck slams into him. Bonus: The little "ha!" Billy's best bud/foster brother gives in the very last scene when he's introduced to a very Special lunch room guest. That capital S is a hint.

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