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Zachary Levi – Shazam
Asher Angel – Billy Batson / Shazam
Jack Dylan Grazer – Freddy Freeman
Mark Strong – Dr. Thaddeus Sivana
Djimon Hounsou – Shazam
Grace Fulton – Mary
Adam Brody – Freddy’s adult superhero alter-ego
Michelle Borth – Mary’s adult superheroine alter-ego
Ross Butler – Eugene’s adult superhero alter-ego
D.J. Cotrona – Pedro’s adult superhero alter-ego
Meagan Good – Darla’s adult superhero alter-ego
This is truly a different kind of superhero movie. One which takes the piss out of superheroes, basically. Levi is a fresh (and freshly-groomed) face, bringing a lovely energy as he drives Shazam forward with an infectious humour. Although there is a slight air of vulernability that comes from his situation, it’s his cheeky grin and boyish traits which ground him as the dashing saviour in this movie. There’s something about this character that makes watching a grown man act irresponsible highly enjoyable. For example, the scene where Billy (as Shazam) and little Freddy enter a liquor store and attempt to buy booze. This scene is the ultimate contradiction; a man who is obviously at the helm of a shitload of super power but with no idea how to use it – strolling into the middle of a robbery performed by men wielding guns.
The superhero’s wide-eyed facial expressions and cries of astonishment at his own abilities are what make this scene. The whole thing has a sense of adorability about it; Billy being catapulted from puberty to prime and having to balance this with newfound superhuman powers at the same time. Levi plays this brilliantly, big eyes and mouth hanging open in juvenile splendour which steadily becomes almost gluttonous when he discovers the things he can do. His stretchy costume echoes superhero characters of the 1980’s / 1990’s. And with a big blocky light-up lightning bolt on the chest Shazam seems to stand miles apart from other superhero characters we’ve been given over the years. With Levi’s help, it paints a picture of an alternative hero. And in a way you could say he is properly taking the piss out of other D.C. and even Marvel characters – this is what makes Shazam! so damn enjoyable. This stuff is bubblegum-popping sheer escapism for 130 minutes. It’s highly refreshing and gives us all a break from the likes of stern Superwoman and cocky Iron Man. Thank god for this, some of those characters become a bit of a dick after a while when throwing their attitudes around takes priority over saving the earth.
Levi could have pulled a Seth Rogen (growling mediocre unfunny things at other characters with his co-stars having to boost the humour of the scene because they’re naturally more funnier) – or a Jesse Eisenberg (spending 90 per cent of the movie being more intelligent than he should and breaking every situation down into statistics which he reads to other characters so speedily you begin to wonder if the guy is actually funny or should be on University Challenge). Fortunately he doesn’t join the ranks and rather than taking tips from unfunny men such as these, our leading hero comes into his own and remains a cheeky, dashing chap with a wholesome offering of laddish behaviour throughout Shazam! – win.
Grazer who plays Freddy is a strong addition to the cast. For a young lad he has a lot to offer and his comedy talent works magic against Levi. Playing out their scenes you’d think they really were the same age, it’s great to watch.
One or two scenes during Shazam! are a bit slow and overcome with a bit too much youth (especially when the action seems to slow down at the foster home). In fact, the movie seems to become similar to a children’s daytime TV show. This is amplified towards the end when a showdown takes place at a winter carnival between Billy and the nasty guy Sivana. As events unfold, a handful of new powerful characters are introduced. But it becomes a bit Power Rangers-esque with giggling girls and back-flipping guys each in a blazing colourful outfit, karate kicking the shit out of various monsters. The movie seems to dip here by shifting from an adult comedy to a children’s story. No win.
Shazam! is definitely one to watch if / when it appears on Netflix. Or if it catches your eye as you’re passing it on the shelf in the supermarket, and it’s around a fiver – grab it. It’s a hoot from beginning to end with a deliciously alternate take on the genre. Not bad at all.