Shazam! (2019)

Director: David F. Sandberg
Writer: Henry Gayden, Darren Lemke
Based on: C. C. Beck and Bill Parker‘s character
Cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody, Djimon Hounsou, Faithe Herman, Meagan Good, Grace Fulton, Michelle Borth, Ian Chen, Ross Butler, Jovan Armand, D.J. Cotrona, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews
Part of: DC movies
Seen on: 9.4.2019

Content Note: ableism, lookism, fat hate

Billy (Asher Angel) has been through pretty much everything Child Protective Services have to offer, and still he persists in searching for his parents – which usually involves running away from any home he is put in. He has one last chance with the Vasquez family (Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews) who already foster five children. Billy even becomes friends with one of them, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer). When Freddy is bullied, Billy stands up for him – and that brings him straight to the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who was looking for someone pure of heart to bestow powers on. Billy finds that he can now transform into a superhero (Zachary Levy). But with being a superhero, supervillains also seem inevitable and Billy has his work cut out for himself.

Shazam! doesn’t pretend to want to be anything but fun and it succeeds in that mission. It is light-hearted and sweet and has some really hilarious moments. Even though I wished that it had shown more diversity with regards to the superhero versions, I had fun.

The film poster showing Shazam (Zachary Levi) leaning against a wall, phone in hand, popping a pink gum bubble.

The DC movies aren’t really known for their fun side, and even though Aquaman already changed that trajectory, Shazam! takes things one step further and is an outright comedy with no pretense to be anything else. And it really is funny.

Levi, Angel and Grazer are a great central trio with good chemistry who bounce off of each other nicely. It’s absolutely joyful to watch them. That being said, Grazer plays a disabled character and movies really have to learn that cripping up is not okay. They should have cast a disabled actor to play Freddy.

Shazam (Zachary Levi) with his foster siblings in the street.

But that’s not the only point where it’s obvious that the film isn’t really very sensitive when it comes to representation. The children with the Vasquezes are racially diverse, yes (on a sidenote: the foster care topic is handled extremely well), but the story is still focused on the two white boys here. And things get even worse when you look at the superhero alter egos they all get and that are explicitely stated to be the best versions of themselves: superhero!Freddy isn’t disabled anymore. Superhero!Pedro isn’t fat anymore. They are all chiseled and beautiful. That’s a real fucking problem.

Other than that, though, I really had fun with the film and its weird but very fitting soundtrack. It had me laughing and, even though I was very tired when I went into the film, it easily kept my attention and I left it feeling pretty energized – just what I wanted.

Billy (Asher Angel) and Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) planning something.

Summarizing: Entertaining.

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