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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Apr 15, 2019


‘SHAZAM’ is from DC Comics and it’s definitely much lighter than their dark treatments of Batman and Superman. Kids will surely enjoy it as it’s a wish fulfillment fantasy for children who dream of being a superhero. The storyline is reminiscent of the 1988 hit Tom Hanks film, “Big”, where they lead character, a boy, is tranformed into a fully grown up man and there’s a sequence here where they pay tribute to that sequence in “Big” with the piano on the floor. But here, the boy just doesn’t become a grown up but also given superpowers!

The movie starts quite slowly. We meet Billy Baston (Asher Angel), but even before him, we’re also introduced to the origin story of the villain, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who’s rejected in his desire to have superpowers. After this introductory portion, the movie gains a faster pace.

Billy is an orphan boy who is desperately looking for his mother who abandoned him in a carnival. After defending his foster brother from school bullies, he is chosen by the Wizard Shazam (Djimon Housou) to inherit six mystical powers: the wisdom of Solomon, the power of Zeus, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury, a combination of Greek and Roman gods.

 All he has to do is say “Shazam!” and he becomes the buff superhero played by Zachary Levi, best known for the hit TV series “Chuck”. Without his knowing it, he also inherits the money-making power of Marvel Comics at the box office, as “Shazam” is now number 1 in the U.S. box office for two straight weeks.

The sequences showing Billy trying to figure out how to use his superpowers, with the help of his smart alecky foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), are very entertaining. Freddy puts Billy through a series of super hero test to see if he could fly, or become invisible? Is he bullet proofed? They find out the answer when they get involved in a convenience story robbery.

Freddy records all these experiments on his cellphone. Shazam has difficulty doing flying and using his laser eyes.
Because he’s basically still a boy at heart, he’s not really that vent on fighting crime and evil guys, and he finds more thrill in recharging the cellphones of people around him and taking selfies of himself doing astonishing acts. There are several names given to him, like Mr. Philadelphia. Thunder Crack, and Sparkle Fingers, but they all don’t click with him.

He eventually becomes the superhero expected of him when he faces the demon-posessed Dr. Sivana, who wants to monopolize Shazam’s powers for himself and whose allies are ugly monsters representing the seven deadly sins. The encounters between them take place on the streets and in the skies of Philadelphia.

Billy’s heroic stunts include preventing disasters that he himself caused by accident, like a bus filled with passengers that nearly falls down from an elevated highway. His exploits are made famous by social media.

All in all,the movie is a lot of fun as the element of comedy really works more than we expected. This is quite something since a lot of supposed comedies we see these days are really devoid of laughter and fall flat on their faces.

The movie is directed by David Sandberg (“Lights Out”, “Annabelle: Creation”) who gets the goofy tone right with one-liners and sight gags that work. And he certainly knows how to properly balance the action, the humorous and the fantasy sequences. We honestly find “Shazam” more entertaining than “Aquaman” or “Captain Marvel”.

In the end, there’s even a disarming sweet Disney message about the importance of having a family, even if they’re foster and not biological, that you can count on to support you all the time. And yes, all of Billy’s foster siblings (they’re multiracial as there’s a black and an Asian) get the chance to become superheroes like him. So you can be sure there will be a sequel with all of them doing ‘we’re all in this together’, especially after the end credits preview shows that Dr. Sivana is still alive and finds a new evil ally while he’s in prison.

Zachary Levi is highly entertaining as Shazam, who can be childlike and sometimes even comically crude like when he uses his powers to get money from an ATM machine, buy beer and even get into a girlie bar. Also very effective is Mark Strong as the villainous Dr. Sivana (he’s also good in a similar role in “Sherlock Holmes” with Robert Downey Jr.) with a bright blue eye that is the source of his evil powers.

Asher Angel is also the best choice as Billy. He really looks like a good boy and the scene where he finally locates the mom he’s been looking for will surely melt your heart. Those who’ve been to Philadelphia will also get a kick from the way CGI artists demolish the city’s iconic William Penn statue and its landmark LOVE sculpture.