Shazam! the ‘Big’ superhero we’ve been waiting for

Shazam! is the seventh movie from the DC Extended Universe and it’s a belter for both action and comedy. More like this please DC/Warner Bros. Shazam! Is my new favourite Christmas movie (that happens to be getting an Easter release). You don’t need to be a superhero super fan to love this hugely entertaining film.

Billy Batson is a tearaway teen, seemingly abandoned by his mother, who ends up in yet another foster home. But this time it’s different. Has he found his forever family?

His roomie Freddie is a fellow foster kid but with a disability that means walking with crutches and bulling are his day-to-day. He’s a self-confessed superhero obsessive and tries to make Billy feel at home but his initial banter falls on deaf ears.

However, when Billy jumps on the subway to escape the school bullies he is magically transported to another realm where he meets a wizard who offers him his powers. All he has to do is say his name ‘Shazam!’. This one word transforms Billy into a fully grown, costumed caped superhero. Who can he turn to? Freddie that’s who. He instantly becomes the fitting sidekick and aids in the discover of exactly what powers Billy has and what he could use them for.

But there’s a darker destiny awaiting Billy as villain Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, played menacingly by Mark strong, is searching for him in order to steal his powers and do lots of horribleness with them.

The film is entertaining from the get-go. Starting with the perfect origins storytelling for both our hero and villain. The scene is easily set for what is to come. The banter between grown-up superhero Billy and sidekick Freddy, provided by Henry Gayden’s screeplay, is pure gold and will warm the hearts of any fan of the Tom Hanks’ classic Big. There’re even a few winks in the film to the obvious parallels between the two – for those that catch them.

Like Peter Parker before him, our new superhero needs to test his abilities. His trusty buddy Freddy is happy to facilitate and document these on YouTube, creating various suitable names for this new superhero – none of which quite stick. These antics by the grown-up Billy, accompanied by his youthful enthusiasm and humour at his new found powers, are endearing and hilarious.

Both Billys are spot on with young Billy, Asher Angel, hitting all his marks for both emotion and laughs and big Billy, Zachary Levi nailing a kid-in-the-wrong-body genre with perfect comedy timing and superhero character growth. Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy is also highly entertaining the whole way through as a true underdog sidekick hero. Honourary mention to the adorable Faithe Herman playing Billy’s new little sis Darla.

Then there’s more retro feels. Enter The Goonies style entourage in Billy’s new foster siblings. Each gets a change to support their new bro and help fight for the good of the world. Director David F. Sandberg nails both the action sequences and heart-warming friendship/family bonding vibe. It’s also seamless in the transition from dark and serious to everyday hijinks.

Feel-good, funny and instantly homely, Shazam! managed to be both modern and retro in its familiarity while being a completely refreshing addition to the somewhat swamped superhero comic cinematic universe.

Shazam! is everything you loved about Big with a sprinkling of The Goonies and added superhero bling. A pitch-perfect origins film with upbeat and comedic vibes that’s a born crowd-pleaser. Check it out in NZ cinemas from 4 April.

Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar.