It’s like “Big,” except without Tom Hanks and with a cape.
After its hit with “Aquaman,” the DC Extended Universe has another one in “Shazam!”
This is a little confusing, but it bears consideration. Captain Marvel first appeared in 1940 as a character named Billy Batson, who, upon speaking the word “SHAZAM” (an acronym for Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury) transformed into an adult with super powers.
Now, of course, there’s another “Captain Marvel.” The original concept remains intact, and the movie takes us deeper into the origins of Shazam’s younger alter ego Billy (Asher Angel, “Driven to Dance.”)
Billy is a troubled Philadelphia kid who has been in the foster system for years. He’s a perpetual runaway who finds a new home with a couple who have taken in several other kids. He’s not so sure what he thinks about this new family. All he really wants is to find his birth mother, whom he has sought for many years.
He makes an awkward friendship with his younger brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer, “It”) an unpopular, bullied kid who is an expert on superheroes.
Billy’s life is changed immediately when he makes the acquaintance of a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who seeks someone pure of heart to inherit his powers and battle a batch of demons that have entered the body of a super-villain.
Amid much hilarity, Billy finds himself in the muscle-bound body of Shazam (Zachary Levi, television’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”) He’s a kid in a man’s body, and part of the fun is watching him do exactly what a kid would want to do if he found himself in this situation.
He and Freddy team up to explore Shazam’s powers.
Of course every superhero has a nemesis, and this time it’s Sivana (Mark Strong, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”).
Despite dangers that lurk around him, Shazam always acts like an overgrown kid — because, hey, that’s what he is. He thrives on attention and sometimes acts immature.
Mostly, this is a comedy. It’s clever at times, and even has a terrific nod to its “Big” ancestry. It does begin to run out of steam a bit because of its overly long running time.
Always, though, the themes about what makes a family and the need to find oneself — especially at Billy’s age — are engaging, especially so because Billy experiences a double identity crisis. The scenes involving the family, all of whom understand Billy’s inner struggles, endear the audience to the characters.
It also contains a perfectly timed Queen tune in a sequence that’s filled with joy and humor.
“Shazam!” is solid fun. Be sure to stick around through the credits.