Although their adventures are supposed to be aimed at children, most superheroes are not children themselves. Aside from the Spider-Men and the occasional moments with the young X-Men, we rarely see a superhero who revels in the joy of having great powers.
So part of what makes “Shazam!”a treat is that the hero is a 14-year-old boy, Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a cynical foster child who does not believe in silly things like “family”, but is sure to have a super-strength kick and the gift of escaping. Yes, when Billy says the magic word, he turns from himself into an mature man (played by Zachary Levi), but this mature man is still Billy in him and his boyfriend – The adopted child Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), a disabled Wiseacre-is a young teenager in body and mind (think “Big”, as I did the creators of “Shazam!”did it once or twice). The sequence in which the two experiment to find out exactly what Billy’s new powers are is exactly what is expected of two 14-year-olds, one rebellious and one hyper-intelligent.
Billy gets his powers after being kidnapped to a magical realm where a wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) gives them to him. About 45 years earlier, another boy was given the same Chance, but was rejected because his heart was not pure enough. He grew up with Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), a potential super-villain whose eyes can emerge seven demons that represent mortal sins when called upon to ravage mortals. He also wants Shazam’s powers and is interested to learn that someone seems to have acquired them.
As the villains go, Sivana is weak and forgetful – her norm “I want to rule the world” jealous without distinctive features. He has a memorable scene where director David F. Sandberg’s affinity for horror (he made “Lights Out” and “Annabelle: Creation”) is well used, but otherwise the Film is simply not interested in him.
What is interesting about the Film? Havin’ fun. Henry Gayden’s script has no subtext to reflect on, no comments on the human condition. It is set in the same world as Batman and Superman, but has no strong connection to the DC Extended Universe films. The scenes of the superhero Dering-do are well-known scenarios – outwitting a Stock-up, saving a Bus that hangs on a bridge – with a good mood and youthful bravery. Although I was laughing and having fun, the whole thing started disappearing from my memory as soon as it was over.
What is most striking is that this is a superhero movie, but better than a warm story about temporary families. Billy appreciates Freddy and the other four caregivers who share a house, accepts that they are stronger together, and sets the stage for team adventures in the future. Between “Aquaman” and “Wonder Woman,” it’s clear that the path for the DCEU is to relax, lighten up and stop being so dark.