'Shazam!' is an irresistibly fun mix of 'Big,' 'The Goonies,' and a superhero movie

Warner Bros.Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Glazer in ‘Shazam!’
  • “Shazam!” is one of the best times you’ll have at the movies this year.
  • The movie is fuelled by its great young cast and hilarious script.
  • It opens in theatres April 5.

“Why couldn’t that movie have been more fun?”

You might have said that about some past superhero movies that have hit theatres. But you won’t be saying it about “Shazam!”

Warner Bros.’ latest DC Comics adaptation (which opens in theatres April 5) looks at the teen boy who turns into an adult superhero with Superman-like abilities when he says the magic word, “Shazam.” And with a tone that’s a mix of coming-of-age classics like “Big” and “The Goonies,” you should get ready for a fun time.

Both “Lights Out” director David F. Sandberg and star Zachary Levi (Shazam) had a lot to prove taking on the project. Known for his creepy (but beautifully shot) movies the last few years (he followed “Lights Out” with “Annabelle: Creation”), could Sandberg’s talents work for a superhero movie? And could Zachary Levi, who is best known by audiences for TV shows like “Chuck” and “The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel,” have what it takes to carry a movie?

Thankfully, it’s “yes” to both.

Shazam 3 Warner BrosWarner Bros.(L-R) Asher Angel and Jack Dylan Glazer in ‘Shazam!’

Sandberg has a great visual eye and it really shows. And with his horror background, he’s able to incorporate tension when needed and work in a couple of jump scares. Levi is perfect playing a big kid. But what really makes the movie great is the kid casting.

Asher Angel (known best as Jonah Beck in the Disney Channel series, “Andi Mack”) has a great combination of vulnerability and swagger in the role of Billy Baston, the boy who gets the power to turn into Shazam. Billy has run away from numerous foster homes around Philadelphia as he tries to track down his mother. At the latest home he’s brought to, he befriends his new foster brother, Freddy Freeman, played by “It” star Jack Dylan Glazer. Like in “It,” Glazer is a major scene stealer playing Shazam’s sidekick.

Read more: The 23 top Marvel Cinematic Universe sidekicks and supporting heroes, ranked from worst to best

The heart of the story is really the brotherhood bond formed by Billy and Freddy, which then spreads to the other foster kids in the house. Sandberg has compared the movie to the teen-friendly Amblin Entertainment movies of the 1980s (“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Goonies,” “Back to the Future”) – the production company created by Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, and Frank Marshall – and there’s a lot of truth to that.

Outside of the typical origin story motif and CGI-created villains – in this case, the seven deadly sins who are using the body of Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) to track down Billy so they can take the “Champion of Eternity” powers that Shazam has – the genuine feel of the acting and the script by Henry Gayden give the story a feel-good quality that’s unlike even the most tame superhero movies.

Basically, it’s hard not to have a big smile on your face leaving this movie.

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