Shazam! (4 stars)

Shazam!

Joyful, Christmas-set superhero movie that brings a blast of fun to the DC Extended Universe

The DC Extended Universe reaches merry heights with a superhero movie fit-to-burst with humour and heart. After the success of James Wan's Aquaman, David F Sandberg, another director who made his name in horror (with Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation), steps up to deliver an irreverent Christmas film that hits all the right beats when it comes to the subject of family.

Based on a comic which sees a teenage boy acquire superpowers that allow him to turn into a hulking, cape-wearing adult by shouting the acronym 'SHAZAM!', the similarities with Penny Marshall's Big are obvious. Sandberg's film knowingly plays with that association, with lead actor Zachary Levi turning in a mischievous performance as a naïve kid in a man's body that is akin to Tom Hanks's charming turn in the 1988 classic.

Billy Batson (played in teenage form by Asher Angel) is, at a very young age, abandoned by his mother at a funfair. Largely left to fend for himself in a series of group homes, we meet him once again when he is placed with the sweetest foster family imaginable. Not only do his new parents welcome him with open arms, his siblings are a dream. But, as Billy is still obsessed with finding his biological mother, it takes a Christmas miracle for him to realise what a gift he has been given.

Enter The Wizard (Djimon Hounsou), who gives Billy his powers; throw in a trusty guide in the form of his disabled foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), and devious supervillain Dr Thaddeus Sivana, played by the reliable Mark Strong, and the scene is set for a thrilling origin story to play out. All those assembled deliver delightful performances and, unlike so many superhero films, where the final third reverts to CG spectacle, Shazam! really takes flight, with inspired jokes, emotion and surprising cameos that deliver a real blast of joy. It's bound to be a festive family staple for years to come.

General release from Fri 5 Apr.

Shazam!

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • Directed by: David F. Sandberg
  • Cast: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Faithe Herman, Cooper Andrews, Marta Milans, Djimon Hounsou
  • UK release: 5 April 2019

Billy Batson (Angel) is a teenager raised by a foster family, who’s given magic powers by The Wizard (Hounsou): if he shouts ‘SHAZAM!’ he becomes the titular cape-wearing adult (Levi). A superhero movie bursting with humour and heart, with a mischievous performance from Levi, inspired jokes, emotion and surprising cameos.

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