3 (out of 4)
Where did DC's turn around come from? After Wonder Woman broke the shit streak, Justice League arrived just in time to remind us why Snyder’s apocalyptic visions could only hypothetically work in an era free of self-awareness and irony. Aquaman was most recently a dynamically divisive change of pace and the global response has been resoundingly celebratory. The muted anticipation for Shazam!, the most prudent installment of the Extended Universe by far, should have been left the film worth a trailer watch and a chuckle. Director David F. Sandberg instead proved that although the superhero origin story has been done to death, with the right approach it's a sturdy framework for a resilient kind of moviegoing bliss.
A winning cast (young Jack Dylan Grazer is the highlight) brings out the best of an enchanting screenplay which levels out savvy, family friendly humor with moments of wickedness more in line with '80s movies and dark bedtime stories. As much as it plays to a general audience (even though it shares several traits with Deadpool) Shazam! emanates a classic sort of simplicity and understated idealism. After Aquaman essentially dropped the idea of crossover interconnectedness, Shazam! shows precisely what it takes to care about characters from scratch. You don’t need trilogies and team ups to develop a handful of well-acted personalities – even our generic villain (Mark Strong in his mode) has a sympathetic origin.
The movie is a minuscule miracle, an unanticipated and unfettered pleasure within a genre so bloated and saturated it needs hours of liposuction. Obviously Shazam! doesn't work with a narrative a child couldn't understand but that universality is indicative of sentimental honesty and occasionally profound realism. Orphanhood, estrangement, identity crisis – the film's emotional earnestness overcomes the lack of action or scale in ways we’ve been progressively attuned to. Shazam!'s whimsically meta delights resist smugness and easy gags every step of the way. Did I mention Zachary Levi is an absolute treasure?
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
so many briefings