I’d heard from the rest of the RunPee Family that Shazam was a disappointing remake, even though I had big hopes DC would finally put out a fun, lithe, winsome feature, with a superhero I could have fun with (unlike Batman, Supes and the rest of the grim gang). Sadly, I waited an abnormally long time to see it. I typically see major genre films on opening night. I finally caught Shazam tonite. And I had a GREAT TIME.
Sure, the Shazam villain sucked
I’ll start with what wasn’t so great, since it’s only one lame thing: the bad guy. He wasn’t that interesting, and his seven deadly sins were just poorly-written/depicted fools.
But that didn’t matter
You know what? Most of the time, not even the nearly-perfect formula of the Marvel Cinematic Universe gets the villains right, especially in origin films. I’m kind of used to that.
So, in Shazam I could just get up and pee during the bad-guy scenes, and be burblingly present for what I really came for — the immense fun of young Billy Batson and his handicappable friend Freddy, figuring out how to be a superhero with little to no instruction. And their test recordings. And in finding a lair. A LAIR. (Preferably behind a waterfall, with seven bedrooms….hehehe. Where do I get one? There should be realtors doing this as a specialty.)
I loved that Shazam actually takes place in the DCEU, a world where these champions exist, and Freddy spends his entire young life making a study of them. It all ties in. He’s a great ‘chair guy’, so to speak, and a crucial component of Billy’s story. Freddy’s foreground/background nods to the Justice League are everywhere if you pay attention, and that somehow makes the darkness of those other DC flicks less despondent.
What did I want out of Shazam?
Just this: a fun DC movie that would make me happy, take me away from real-life worries for a few hours, and hopefully infuse a sense of joy into a franchise I gave up on long ago. And I got what I needed — an origin story that may not be as clever and heartfelt as MCU’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, but offered a new young hero who needed to learn heroing. You know: Billy Batson could take a bus to Queens and hang out with Peter Parker over some nice New York shwarma. I think those two young heroes would have a lot to commiserate on.
I wrote elsewhere what the anagram SHAZAM stands for, so I won’t repeat it here. And while I’m not sure the big red guy (um, not Santa, although he does make a great “cameo” in this Christmasy movie) really showed off the Wisdom and Stamina gifts, that’s okay. THE KID IS 14. Give him some time to work it out. Billy even came up with a decent catchphrase by the end.
Also, I noted a lot of nods to popular culture, including a great reference to Tom Hank’s classic Big. Remember the giant piano key scene? (I let out a loud whoop at that point, but the rest of the packed theater didn’t. Am I the only one old enough to have caught that reference? Whatever. DC did good.)
Here’s what I really want to say about Shazam:
I smiled the entire time. I giggled; I clapped, I cheered. In essence, I had a great time at the movies. And that’s all I really want when I spend my time and money to watch some bit of magical make-believe: make me happier than when I walked in. Send me home like a kid on Christmas morning.
I’m not saying Shazam is as clever or thoughtful as a typical Marvel movie, but I do tend to grade the MCU on a curve. For DC to make me feel this good, I have to bump Shazam into the A range. I liked the characters, the foster family, the resolution (I don’t care if the plot didn’t make much sense rationally — I’m very forgiving with fantasy films); I liked Zackary Levi’s inspired goofy portrayal, and I absolutely freaked with joy at the last second cameo.
You know what? Here’s the thing: do you like gritty DC? Then maybe Shazam isn’t your cuppa. Personally, I can’t wait for a little more silly fun to jump start the Justice League Crew.
Movie Grade: A-
PS: Shazam was a Saturday morning TV kid’s show in the 70s. I enjoyed it then, but this remake is much more cool. The original show, along with their sister show Isis, played it straight. This Shazam is much, much, better. I think if I watched any of the old Shazam TV episodes, I’d be appalled. Times change, and not everything “nostalgic” ages well.
Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)