Shazam Is A Lively, Funny Superhero
Say My Name Shazam
Many a superhero origin story and heaven knows that cinemas have been flooded with them in the past decade has an extended early sequence in which the protagonist gets to fool around with his or her newly acquired powers.
Think of Spider-Man before he learns that with great power comes great responsibility, when he’s using his wall-crawling abilities to win wrestling matches and swing around the city with impunity. Shazam!,
The loudly titled new comic-book adventure from David F. Sandberg, is a feature-length adaptation of that freewheeling phase: Young Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel) is given great power, and with it, he has a lot of fun.
Shazam! is based on a 1940s Whiz Comics title, which centers on a caped, many-muscled hero called Captain Marvel (no, not that one) who dresses in red and flies like a speeding bullet. Subsumed into the world of DC Comics in the 1970s after a long lawsuit over the Whiz hero’s similarity to DC’s Superman
This odd also-ran can’t even use his original name now that it’s been claimed by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Still, Sandberg and the screenwriter Henry Gayden lean into the quirkiness of the property they’re adapting and let it dominate the story, making a fairly typical tale of derring-do feel somehow intimate, character-driven, and inventively funny.
Who is this Superhero Shazam?
In Shazam!, our hero, Billy, is a teenage boy whose biggest demons are internal; he was abandoned as a child and has a strong rebellious streak as a result.
After one of his frequent attempts to run away in search of his mother, Billy is placed in a new foster home, run by the kindly Victor (Cooper Andrews) and Rosa Vasquez (Marta Milans), where he rooms with a wisecracking paraplegic boy named Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer).
After an act of kindness defending Freddy from school bullies—Billy is chosen by a decrepit old wizard (Djimon Hounsou) to gain the magic powers of Shazam.
What magic powers are those? Well, super strength, for sure, along with invulnerability; lightning bolts; flight (though Billy isn’t too good at that); and, most important, the ability to turn into a grown man (Zachary Levi) anytime he yells—all together now the word Shazam!