Shazam! (2019)

David F. Sandberg
Running Time: 132 Minutes
Starring: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Faithe Herman, Cooper Andrews, Marta Milans, Michelle Borth, Adam Brody, Meagan Good, D.J. Cotrona, Ross Butler, Lotta Losten, Andi Osho, John Glover

The latest inclusion into the DC Extended Universe, David F. Sandberg brings to screen a lighter touch and a great sense of fun, while lending a necessary seriousness to the real life issues. Think Big with added superpowers, told from the perspective of Isabela Moner's character from Instant Family.

A teenage orphan who's run from multiple foster homes, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is desperate to find his estranged mother. After being brought to a social worker, he's put with the Vasquez family and their five adopted children, but struggles to become accustomed to them. After a subway ride goes awry, Billy encounters a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who grants him the ability to transform into a super-powered adult (Zachary Levi), through declaring the word "Shazam!".

Having legged it from numerous foster homes, solely focused on reuniting with his birth mother, Billy Batson has closed himself off from others, leaving him self-serious and walled off from others. He may have a chip on his shoulder, but our lead is just trying to find himself what he once lost; a family, and Asher Angel does great work in showcasing these sides to the character. But once he says the magic word and ages by about 20 years, Zachary Levi is tagged into the lead role. When transformed into a super-powered adult body, Billy cuts loose and gleefully revels in what this gift grants him. Levi is an utter gem, bringing to infectious sense of joy which made his title role in TV's Chuck endlessly enjoyable to watch. But it isn't all fun and games, as the experiences of wielding such powers leads to truths about power and responsibility (which are often linked to a certain wall-crawling hero).

Tagging along with Billy is Freddie, his disabled foster brother who's a superhero fanatic, ready to use his motor-mouth to comment on the well worn tropes. He's willing to help Billy see how far his new abilities will take him, but also acts upon the scenario as a form of wish fulfilment, seeming to enjoy it considerably more than his friend who's actually been bequeathed with the powers. Jack Dylan Grazer does terrific work in his portrayal, regularly to steal the film from its very leads.

Bringing the menace that he often delivers so well, Mark Strong comfortably fits into the antagonistic role of Dr Thaddeus Sivana. But he isn't the villain just for the hell of it, as early in the film depicts events which form the man he will become. Someone who recognises his father's preference for his elder brother, which turns into a poisonous form of resentment. A person who sees the way to a better life, but is left clinging onto the lost hopes of the past, wishing for it all to turn out differently.

Considering his two prior features were Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation, it's fair to say that David F. Sandberg leans into the horror elements very well when the opportunity presents him. But he also taps into a light-hearted sense of humour that's wonderfully knowing in regards to genre, leaving the feature to come off like a more family friendly version of Deadpool. At the centre of it all lies a touching tale about family being where you make it, embodied by the wonderful foster family Billy is placed with, who are each well characterised, with the great cast breathing life into each of their characters. By the end of it, you'll wish to spend more time in the company of these lovely people.

A joyous feature full of empathy and hope, with humorous takes on the genre nestled within, Shazam! is an utter blast to watch.