‘Shazam!’ review: Giddily fun flick
David F. Sandberg’s Shazam! is the refreshing blast from the past a genre tainted by forced maturity direly needs.
Shazam! is a film that doesn’t shy away from resting on the simple pleasures of the juvenilia that once pervaded comic books. It is a film that celebrates the joys of childhood, stubbornly resisting the temptation to go with the flow of most other superheroes who have gone the way of gloom and doom with its consistently wide-eyed appreciation of the fantasy that the entire genre is built on.
Wonders and worries of adolescence
Sure, the cinematic universes haven’t totally abandoned the pursuit of delights unbridled by currency and relevance.
However, most of the recent superhero films are turning more into slogans and statements, with their escapist endeavors being their laziest element. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Captain Marvel, for example, is a clear achievement in how it navigates a complex narrative to echo how women have been controlled by men and how they should rise up to reveal their intrinsic power. However, it crawls with its repetitive action sequences that simply fail to live up to the strength of its message.
This is not the case with Shazam!
It is first and foremost a giddily fun flick and not a timely advocacy garbed in fashionable spandex and aerodynamic cape. Sandberg perfectly fuses humor and spectacle, mindful that a comic book has the word comic in it for a reason. His film never gives up levity for futile stabs at depth and drama. Yet almost miraculously, amidst its unadulterated goofiness, Shazam! never loses track of a very real heart and soul and maintains an affinity to both the wonders and worries of adolescence.
Downright ludicrous conceit
In one scene in the film, the titular superhero (Zachary Levi) finds himself hopping on musical keys in an obvious ode to Penny Marshall’s Big, the Tom Hanks-starrer that has a kid magically fulfill his wish of instantly turning into a grown-up.
It is perhaps to Shazam!’s advantage that despite its preoccupation with caped crusaders and angst-ridden baddies, its immense delights bear more resemblance to Marshall’s ode to juvenile aspirations than the lucrative costumed melodramas which a lot of the recent superhero films really are.
Sandberg doesn’t waste time reinventing the wheel, turning the decades-old property about a boy who can transform into a super-powered adult by just shouting a silly name.
That conceit has always been marked with a charming ludicrousness. Its blend of magic, myth, and mirth are the stuff children’s stories are made of. Sandberg both embraces this and complements it with an awareness of its place in a world beholden to pop culture. Its characters are no longer just children rushing to get old like in Marshall’s beloved film, they are boys and girls longing to belong through their pop culture-grounded fantasies, and woeful adults whose childhood was snatched by familial disapproval.
Shazam! doesn’t need to stretch too far to be meaningful. It only needs to go back to the roots of the genre to mine its sincere relish.
More fun than flawed
Shazam! is boisterous and blithe.
It harks to a time when superheroes were more fun than flawed. It’s a true joy from start to finish. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.