DC’s latest venture onto the silver screen, “Shazam!”, arrived in theaters on April 5 with a bang, earning a solid $53 million in its opening weekend and maintaining its position as the number one movie in the box office for two weeks in a row. However, while “Shazam!” has certainly demonstrated that it has the capability to be a financial success, that alone does not make a good film. Thankfully “Shazam!” is more than just a bloated computer-generated imagery budget, and is able to hold its own in the critical arena as well as with the weekend audience.
“Shazam!” follows the story of Billy Batson, played by Asher Angel, an orphaned boy determined to find the mother he lost as a child. It is a search that borders on obsessive and frequently leads him to break out of the various foster homes he is sent to in search of any clue to her whereabouts.
Of course, this only lands him in trouble with each new dead-end he finds and each foster home he runs from until he finds himself at the last foster care home that will take him. It is here that we are introduced to the rest of the main cast, but before we get the chance to even completely learn their names it is soon revealed that Billy is planning to escape once again. That is until a wrench is thrown in his plan when he encounters the diminishing wizard the movie took its name from, Shazam.
From this point on, the film graduates from its initial coming-of-age story about a kid with a chip on his shoulder searching for a familial connection, to the same thing, only now he is a superhero with a lightning bolt on his chest. It’s hard to explain how that last part adds to the movie’s message in a concise manner, but suffice it to say that watching a middle schooler and his friend figure out how to make a YouTube channel of him testing out his powers works in a terrifically organic and humorous way.
Of course, the humor of a kid trying to play superhero is just the icing on the cake with this film. “Shazam!” introduces the audience to a cast of characters that play off of each other brilliantly and more than manage to carry its message of family. Altogether, the film manages to hit all the right notes of what a superhero film can and should be. I couldn’t recommend “Shazam!” enough.
Amidst the ocean of comic book adaptations to cinema, it can be easy to lose track of the myriad of origin stories that heroes bring with them to the silver screen. However, “Shazam!” manages to distinguish itself in the tempest with its heart and resonant storytelling.
I give “Shazam!” four out of five stars.
Still-shot from official trailer