April 10, 2019 – This film is promoted as a kid-friendly superhero movie, but there is also an adult-oriented dark side to it. It has horror film elements. Director David F. Sandberg has a background in horror films (“Annabelle: Creation” and “Lights Out”) and those dark, creepy, hard-hearted influences can be seen in this film.
The hero of the movie is a troubled kid, Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel) who has spent years getting kicked out of foster homes, running away trying to find his real mother. He ends up at a group home run by Victor and Rosa Vazquez (played by Cooper Andrews of “Den of Thieves” and Marta Milans of “Asher,” respectively). When two bullies beat up his roommate, Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer of “Beautiful Boy”) Billy reluctantly steps in to defend him, earning the enmity of the two bullies.
Because of his bravery, he is chosen as champion and successor to Shazam (Djimon Hounsou of “Guardians of the Galaxy”) the last of a noble race of wizards. Shazam tells Billy to say his name and receive his power, which he does, and Shazam dies as Billy becomes the new Shazam (he turns instantly into a costumed adult with super powers played by Zachary Levi of “Thor: The Dark World”).
Billy, must defend of the world against the seven deadly sins, even though he is totally unprepared to do so. He is supposed to be pure of heart, as a champion should be, and he has no idea what he has gotten himself into. Luckily, his roommate, Freddy, is an expert in all things related to superheroes, and he gives Billy the guidance he needs to discover his super powers and learn to use them. This is the kid-friendly part of the movie.
The horror part of the movie is centered on a truly evil character, Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong of “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”) who, as a child, failed the test of being champion. He ruthlessly finds a way back to the lair of Shazam years later. There, he absorbs the power of the seven deadly sins and becomes a super-villain. He's a really nasty piece of work, and he doesn't mind murdering people. He can cause the seven sins to manifest as monsters. We see one of these monsters literally bite a man's head off. This is not kid stuff.
Back to the kid-friendly part of the movie, there is a moral theme about a young man, Billy, who must grow up quickly in order to fight the evil Dr. Sivana and his monsters. Part of Billy's problem is that he must confront his past, and that means confronting his long lost mother. At the same time, we find out that Dr. Sivana has similar issues which go back to his own childhood (some of this is depicted in a scene at the beginning of the movie).
The way the movie switches quickly back and forth between adult and child themes, comedy and horror, is a bit disconcerting, but it worked for me. I am not sure how well it would go over with young children. It is a movie with some comedy and a message about growing up, and what it takes to make a family. There is a teaser scene at the end of the film about a sequel.
This movie is well acted, and there is plenty of action to go with the comedy and the horror. This film rates a B.
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