- Movie Rating -

Shazam! (2019)

| June 4, 2019

A few hours after I saw Shazam!, a friend of mine asked me for my thoughts and I had to answer him honestly, “Well, it is half of a very good movie.”  But then I added, “I’m not entirely sure what the other half is supposed to be.”  I don’t think that I will be alone in my opinion.  Shazam! is two films split in half.  One is a light-hearted and fun adventure about a kid who becomes a superhero.  The other is a dark, ugly, mean-spirited and film about demons that threaten to march all over the Earth and eat people alive.  I am all for taking a movie that has sweet and sour but not when the sour is so bitter that it literally has me asking “What movie am I watching?”

I will confess that I am not the person that you ask for information about this character.  I saw his television show on a regular basis when I was a kid but it didn’t necessarily nest itself in a comfortable corner of my memories.  Still, even though my recollections are a little fuzzy, I am fairly certain that they didn’t contain a depressing subplot about a kid being abandoned by his own mother, nor did they ebb toward a nasty scene in which demons crash into a board room and rip several people limb from limb.

That’s too bad because the lighter half of the movie is a goofy and charming comedy.  That’s wise because if you know anything about this character then you know that he’s not exactly someone whose origins make for deep drama.  One credit that I can give this movie is that it had a much easier time explaining itself than Captain Marvel.  Here’s what I learned: Shazam (originally called Captain Marvel but changed due to a lawsuit) is a kid named Billy Batson who, with the power of a single word, turns into something that looks like a second-rate Superman with a table cloth around his neck and a name that is an acronym for the origin of his powers – Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury.

So yeah, its probably best not to take this character too seriously.  In part, the movie honors this notion by providing us with a potentially fun movie for kids, but unfortunately it asks them to weed through a swamp of unsettling ugliness to get there.  On the lighter half, Billy is played in a nice performance by Asher Angel as a rambunctious street kid who finds himself in foster care for The Nicest Foster Family in the History of the World – Rosa (Marta Milans) and Victor (Cooper Andrews) whose home is full of love, plus of the cutest outcasts you’ve ever seen.  And inevitably, through a series of magical machinations given to him through a rather inhospitable magical realm called The Rock of Eternity, he is given the power to change into an adult superhero (played by Zachary Levi) just by uttering his name.  Of course, since he is new to being a superhero, that means we get lots of fun sight gags as he tries and fails to figure them out.

Oh, how I wish that movie could have stayed at that level, because far too often the movie switches back to the villain, a sour killjoy whose very presence is a stain on the film’s great pleasures.  He is Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), a vengeful and bitter snort who was the son of an abusive S.O.B. and was turned down for the powers that Billy now possesses.  Instead, he employs implements of the seven deadly sins as his own private army to kill and maim and do whatever it is that Seven Deadly Sin monsters do.

Part of me wants to recommend the movie because of its strengths as a comedy, but the other part of me wants to warn you about the monster half that is often nasty and unsettling.  I’ll leave it at the most pointed of movie critic lines that I can muster: Levi soars and Strong snores.  Take that for what you will.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2019) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized