Movie review: 'Shazam'

Brad Keefe

If you're a regular reader of my reviews (Hi, Mom!), you know I have a certain level of burnout that borders on disdain for superhero movies.

And yet here I am about to wholeheartedly recommend a superhero movie.

And it's not the one that comes out in two weeks and that everyone already has their ticket for. (You'll have to wait for my “Avengers: Endgame” review because the studio powers that be don't deem the largest city in Ohio worthy of a critic pre-screening, and I'm not driving two hours for a three-hour movie.)

And it's not the most recent superhero blockbuster, although my dear former co-worker, Katie Brown, rightly took me to task for being far too harsh on “Captain Marvel” for some of the same reasons I'm about to recommend this movie.

But the main reason I'm here to tell you to see “Shazam!”? It breaks the formula enough that I felt like I was seeing something I haven't seen before, while also being warmly familiar.

Yes, in between two tent-pole Marvel movies, D.C. releases the best film in its stable since Christopher Nolan's “Dark Knight” series.

“Shazam!” is a delightfully paced (if, quibbles, a little overlong) story centered on a 14-year-old foster kid named Billy Batson (Asher Angel).

Billy's a streetwise kid who's run from foster home to foster home until, through a series of coincidences and not-coincidences, he finds himself transformed into an actual superhero (played by Zachary Levi).

Superhero Billy/Shazam navigates his newfound powers with Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), his disabled foster brother who becomes an unlikely best friend.

And they do what two young teens should do with the discovery that one of them suddenly has superpowers: They have so much fun with it.

Director David F. Sandberg, working from a great script by Henry Gayden and borrowing from his horror/thriller pedigree (“Lights Out,” “Annabelle: Creation”), makes a wildly entertaining romp that ticks off the superhero requisites.

But to Katie's earlier callout of my immediate overreaction to “Captain Marvel,” he makes a movie I can see myself in. Specifically my 14-year-old self.

“Shazam!” is part “Big” (or another new release in this formula, this week's “Little”) and a bit of “Stand by Me,” with a hint of “Adventures in Babysitting” and “Goonies.”

It's the superhero genre through the lens of the great kid adventure movies of the '80s, and that's a super fun mix.

I haven't had this much, well, fun, in a superhero movie since Sam Raimi's first “Spider-Man.” And while we'll certainly see three hours of gravitas soon with “Endgame,” I'm also down for more fun, please.

Now playing

4 stars out of 5