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‘Shazam!’ exceeds audience expectations with lighthearted comedy

Rating 5 Stars

In a month that’s packed with tentpole releases in the world of television and film (“Game of Thrones” and “Avengers: Endgame” in particular), you’d be forgiven if you completely forgot about the latest DC film “Shazam!” starring Zachary Levi. This is a real shame, because “Shazam!” just might be the best DC film ever made.

Unlike Marvel, whose films continue to smash records and please critics, DC hasn’t had as much luck with its live-action offerings. Outside of the “Dark Knight” trilogy, “Wonder Woman” and the recently released “Aquaman,” DC hasn’t quite been able to live up to the standard set by other films in the superhero genre. That’s why “Shazam!” is such a wonderful change of pace. Gone is the dreary and overly serious tone of the past; instead, “Shazam!” is a fun, heartfelt, hilarious and exciting time at the movies!.

The film tells the story of a 14-year-old foster kid named Billy Batson who encounters a wizard named Shazam and is granted an impressive grab-bag of superpowers that include flight, super strength, invulnerability and super speed. All Billy has to do to turn into his superpowered alter-ego is say the word “Shazam” upon doing so, he’s transformed into an adult version of himself.

There are so many things that this film does right. For one, the emotional core of the film is based around Billy and his new foster family. The character of Freddy, Billy’s best friend played by Jack Dylan Grazer, has a particularly close relationship with the titular hero that supplies most of the comedy and emotions. The film doesn’t shy away from how difficult the lives of the children and foster parents can be at times. The film also tackles issues like bullying, jealousy, rejection and what it means to be a good person.

The film also has a great villain, Thaddeus Sivana, played by Mark Strong. Thad’s arc mirrors Billy’s throughout the movie but it isn’t over-done or distracting. Right from the beginning, you understand his motivations and even sympathize with him at times. The final confrontation between the hero and the villain also reflects the films’ themes, making for a highly satisfying conclusion.

The biggest stand out of “Shazam!” is the comedy. This is probably one of the funniest superhero films ever made, right up there with “Deadpool” and the first “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The humor in “Shazam!” is based mostly out of circumstance and reality, which only makes the jokes hit harder. The comedy is very self-aware and uses the question of “what would I really do if I had superpowers?” to great effect.

The film isn’t without shortcomings though. Some of the action sequences are a bit lacking and the special effects are pretty bad at times. The film also feels longer than it is, which suggests some problems with pacing but it doesn’t really affect the overall quality of the film.

“Shazam!” is great. It’s a fun, refreshing take on superhero movies that serves to remind us why we love these types of characters and stories so much. As a film, it’s almost the whole package. It has heart, humor, action, great characters and a nice story. This is the type of film that even non-fans of the superhero genre could find enjoyment in. This is definitely one that you should check out as soon as you can.

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