Shazam! (2019)

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Everyone dreams of being a superhero. But what does it take to actually become one? Well, in the case of Billy Batson, a 14-year-old foster kid looking for his mom, all it takes is uttering a single word: Shazam! Doing so transforms him into a grown man, with flight, super strength, hyper speed, and the ability to shoot lightning from his fingers. And yet this grown-up version of Billy retains his childlike mind, so, naturally, he does all the things a teenager with superpowers would actually do. Namely, show off for girls and make money. But he’ll have to grow up fast because there’s a villain on the loose, and he’s looking to take Billy’s powers, and use them for things far less innocent and fun. Can Billy and his foster family stop him in time? Watch the movie to find out.

Guys, I love this movie. I love it so much I honestly don’t feel like writing a review, since it’d probably just be a never-ending series of sentences beginning with “and another thing that ruled was…” But, at the same time, I really do want you all to see this movie, so I figured I should explain why. So, where to begin?

This movie is sweet, funny, terrifically-acted, and just thoroughly enjoyable. People have compared it to Christopher Reeve’s Superman, and the Tom Hanks movie Big, both of which I think are valid. But what this movie really reminded me of the most was the old Amblin Entertainment films, like E.T. and Goonies. Those films were about young people going on supernatural adventures, and, in the process, learning valuable lessons about family and responsibility. This movie is just like that, all the way down to the child actors being terrific, and behaving like real kids.  But what probably impressed me the most about this flick was its dramatic heft. There are certain scenes in this film, like when you learn about Billy’s back-story with his mom, that is just heart-wrenching. And yet, it never becomes depressing. There’s always hope in this movie. There’s always a sense that, no matter how bad it seems, you’ll always have people who love and support you. It’s like the end of It’s A Wonderful Life; no man is a failure who has friends. This movie has a similar theme; family is the people who accept and support you, and as long as you have a family, there’s always hope. That’s a wonderful message, and it’s delivered beautifully in a thoroughly entertaining feature.

But beyond simply being a ton of fun to watch, the movie also provides some witty new takes on superhero tropes. For instance, virtually all superhero flicks have a big, third act punch up, where the main hero and villain smash into each other, like a kid banging action figures together. I don’t want to spoil it, but the filmmakers find some pretty fun ways of toying with your expectations in that final sequence. The movie’s actually really meta, with characters commenting on, and poking fun at, the sorts of things we expect to see in superhero films. It also finds ways of addressing some of the sillier aspects of the original source material. For instance, in the original comics published back in the 40s, Billy is a homeless boy who is told by a mysterious man to follow him down into a subway, which he does without question. Now, we modern audiences look at this and scream “stranger danger,” and the film does more or less the same thing when Billy is confronted by a Wizard on the metro, and the man urges him to “grab my staff so my power will flow through you.” Hell, the movie even finds a way of poking fun at the fact that, for legal reasons, no one knows what to call Billy’s superhero persona. See, in the comics, he was originally called Captain Marvel. But then, when his creators were sued by DC, who claimed he was a ripoff of Superman, the character went out of print for a long time. So long that another, Marvel comics character, Carol Danvers, was created and given the name Captain Marvel. As a result, Billy wasn’t allowed to be called his actual name, despite the fact that he’d existed much longer than Carol Danvers. The movie addresses this frustrating fact by having no one agree on what nickname to give him. And there are so many other little details like that, which not only convey some real wit on the writer’s part but also some real passion for the source material.

Guys, what can I say? I love this movie. It’s my favorite film of 2019 so far, and I want to watch it again. I truly believe that, whether you’re a child or a child at heart, you will have a blast with this flick. Don’t hesitate to give it a look!

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