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Few Superhero Origin Stories Are As Fun As “Shazam!”

We forget, given how ubiquitous they’ve become in pop culture of all stripes, but superheroes were primarily created to appeal to kids. In fact, most of us were introduced to comic book characters during childhood. Too often, especially within the DC Extended Universe, that is forgotten. Not so with Shazam!, which is not just the best DC superhero outing since Christopher Nolan finished his Batman trilogy, but one of the most purely enjoyable times at the theater so far this year. This is a ridiculously good time, full of joy and a mix of exciting and innocence. As you’ll see this week, DC has cracked the code here.

The movie is a superhero origin story for the title character. After a short prologue, we meet Billy Batson (Asher Angel), an orphan on the streets who constantly searches for his mother. His latest foster family is a kind one running a group home, including disabled kid Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer). Freddy loves superheroes, though Billy doesn’t care. That changes when he’s tapped by a wizards (Djimon Hounsou) to become his champion and take over the powers of Shazam! When he says that name, Billy turns into a hero (Zachary Levi), though he needs Freddy to help figure out just what he can do. That becomes all the more important when a super villain emerges in Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong). A hero must step forward, and Billy/Shazam! is that hero. David F. Sandberg directs a script by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke. Maxime Alexandre provides the cinematography, while the score is by Benjamin Wallfisch. The supporting cast for this one includes Cooper Andrews, Adam Brody, D.J. Cotrona, Meagan Good, Grace Fulton, Marta Milans, Caroline Palmer, and many more.

Shazam! just wants to make you smile. Especially as Billy is learning about the powers he wields, there’s so much fun to be had. Even when it seems like the flick is devolving into generic CGI monster fights, there’s comedy just around the corner. Though not as meta as something like Deadpool, or nearly as graphic for that matter (though they both have animated credits that are so cool you’ll wish you could pause them to admire), Shazam! does want to please you at every turn. Levi is all heart as the hero, while Angel and Grazer are the soul of the picture. At its heart, this is a story about family, and a moving one at that.

If I had seen Shazam! as a kid, it would have been my absolute favorite thing in the world. Hell, even now in my early to mid 30s, this was still a ridiculous amount of fun and just a full on crowd pleasing blast. It’s a joy. Whether the character continues to show up and become part of a new Justice League or any of the sort, he’s a new crown jewel for DC. Imagine the look of Kick-Ass, a slightly more chaste attitude in the realm of Deadpool, and the heart of Wonder Woman. Mix all of that together and you have this film, one of my favorites of the year so far.

This weekend, superhero fans and just those who enjoy a fun blockbuster will be in for a treat when Shazam! opens up. The movie is one of 2019’s most fun, and arguably one of its best too. There’s just heart and joy throughout every frame. Sandberg and company opted to only lightly tie it in to the DC Extended Universe, and that’s perfect. This tale stands more than well enough on its own. It’s not only a delight and one of the most surprisingly great films of the first half of the year, it’s simply a terrific superhero movie, full stop. Don’t miss this one…

Be sure to check out Shazam!, in theaters everywhere this Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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