Review by Mr. Will Wong
DC Comics at long last get their due, achieving a fine balance of heart, nostalgia and superhero action in their latest, SHAZAM!
Filmed right here in Toronto, the Philadelphia-set story centers on orphan Billy Batson (Asher Angel) whom after several stints in adopted homes, lands in the care of the Vazquez family. Determined once again for it not to work out as their now sixth adopted child, Billy one day finds himself transported to a different realm on a subway ride where he is given superpowers to transform to an adult form of himself, by The Wizard Shazam (Djimon Honsou). He then realizes his true purpose, to fend off the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) who seeks to take away the power he possesses. He then finds himself counting on his new family for their help when he thought he least needed them.
SHAZAM is a pure delight and we see Director David F. Sandberg venturing away from Horror to the Superhero genre with finesse. Packed with witty jokes and equal-parts sentimentality, Henry Gayden‘s Screenplay doesn’t shy away from touchier matter like themes of abandonment, bullying and truly asks the question of what circumstances lead to a villain becoming a villain. We love that SHAZAM! goes into uncomfortable territory occasionally and it does so in glossy, butt-kicking fashion. In fact, watching the Film was like going back to our childhood and seeing Superman for the first time on the big screen. It achieves a sense of nostalgia that few Comic Book adaptations have been able to make us feel.
Zachary Levi in the titular role as the adult version of Billy is so good that we can’t imagine anyone else donning that costume. His comedic timing and ability to play naïve, while handling the at times clumsy physicality of the role, make us feel the role even was tailored to him. Asher Angel makes a big impression in this breakout role, but it is Jack Dylan Grazer (IT) who truly is given a chance to shine, nailing some verbose dialogue mature beyond his years. He is making a promising career out of breathing humanity into young characters grappling with disability. Mark Strong is intense and menacing, giving the Film that dimension of threat that keeps us focused on the story’s advancement.
Visuals, Set Design and Props (right down to a Magic 8-Ball), take us into the moment. We confess, we owned one of those too! We can’t help but feel a deep sense of pride that our City is featured front-and-center. Even though we’re told this is Philadelphia, we know very well this not-so-secretly is Toronto and we’re okay with that. One of the most challenging tasks of the Film was its alternating between Billy and Shazam in a fingersnap and never once does it lose momentum nor continuity as the story flips between the younger and older variants of the central character.
We can’t wait for you, your friends and family to discover the wizardry that is SHAZAM! Warner Bros. Canada release it Thursday, April 4, 2019.
The Stars and Director of SHAZAM! we’re just in Toronto to bring the Film back to the City. Click here for more!