The folks at DC Films seem to have woken up to their tonal identity crisis and, in the process of resetting their comics-inspired cinematic universe by kicking both Ben Affleck’s Batman and (if rumours are to be believed) Henry Cavill’s Superman to the curb, have finally decided to have some proper fun. Shazam! is the most solidly entertaining and coherent DCEU film to date. Director David F. Sandberg ensures that no one gets to level the set of complaints usually aimed at the franchise: there’s none of Zack Snyder’s joyless tone or drab colour palette; a merciful lack of Aquaman’s warring tonal personalities; and none of whatever Suicide Squad was. Shazam! just gets on with being a light, silly and at times heartfelt adventure about a wizard who grants foster teen Billy Batson (Asher Angel) the power to turn into a fully-grown, broad-chested superhero (Zachary Levi) every time he says the magic word “Shazam!”. Oh and Mark Strong is once again on bastard duty, looking all villainous and envious of our young hero’s newly found powers.

By design, the premise recalls Penny Marshall’s Big and the resulting film feels more kid-friendlythan previous DCEU entries. With this comes not only an admirably straightforward adventure (another novelty for recent DC efforts, which attempted to cram in as much messily bloated storytelling as humanly possible) but a high hit rate when it comes to gags. This is in large part due to the interplay between Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays Billy’s new foster brother, as well as Faithe Herman’s turn as Darla, the youngest (and cheekiest) member of our hero’s adopted family.

Admittedly, the bar has been set low for the studio’s superhero offerings, and they’ve fallen far since the Christopher Nolan years. That said, and taking into account the repeated and tiresome hero-villain standoffs, its excessive run time and the fact that it won’t linger in the mind for long,everything in Shazam! mostly falls into place to deliver a colourful and fun slice of comic book entertainment.

Shazam! | Directed by David F. Sandberg (US, 2019), with Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack DylanGrazer. 

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