REVIEW: Shazam! in cinemas, 12a, 130 mins
If you actually had superhero powers, would you really be over-bothered about saving the world?
Shazam! in the shape of 14-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) goes for much more plausible (well, it’s all relative) options.
Before long, he’s charging money for selfies, making dollars flutter out of cash machines and raiding drinks dispensers.
And that’s the fun of the film, a film which allows all the superhero nonsense to soar but in the end is much, much more interested in things which are genuinely human. Amid all the special effects (and they really are special) is a tale of wondering who you are, of family, of belonging and of finding your home.
In truth, the finale is overlong in a film which threatens never to end, and the opening 20 minutes or so are pretty sluggish, but for the most part, Shazam!’s heart is absolutely in the right place for a movie which is thoroughly entertaining – a superhero film which is pitched perfectly for those of us who have long since lost interest in superheroes.
The crux is that Billy (and Angel’s performance is perfect) has become separated from his parents and now spends his life running away from foster homes in search of the only home he believes he really wants. As a last resort, he’s planted in a group home of mismatched, good-hearted kiddies, among them the geeky, frankly weird Freddy (another terrifically engaging performance, this time from Jack Dylan Grazer).
One thing leads to another and suddenly, however, Billy is a superhero in search of a name (some great ones are suggested) and in search of a cause. There are some great scenes as he tries to find out just what exactly his superpowers are.
Adding to the fun is the fact that as a superhero he has grown up physically whilst completely maintaining his 14-year-old outlook – a challenge actor Zachary Levi rises to brilliantly, to huge comic effect. Of course, there’s a villain, and Mark Strong fills the role beautifully as the thoroughly-nasty Dr Thaddeus Sivana, who comes complete with nasty beasties.
There is plenty of chasing, lots of lightning fights but above all a lightness of touch which ensures the film really hits the mark. Great fun.