Shazam! Review Roundup: Second Win In A Row For DC!

Ever since the first reactions to Shazam! surfaced on web, we have been quite positive that the movie is going to be a critical darling. Now that the embargo for full reviews has been lifted, there remains no doubt about that.

Warner Bros. has successfully managed to deliver two back-to-back DC Comics adaptations for the first time in this decade that have garnered praise from majority of the film critics. After last December’s critically and commercially successful Aquaman, the studio has now brought to us Shazam!, which has clearly won over critics.

With 46 reviews counted, the upcoming April 5 release is currently sitting at an approval rating of 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Only that piece of information might be enough for some to make up their minds about watching the movie in theaters. But the rest might want to know what the critics are actually saying. So, let’s do that, starting off with what The Associated Press’s Lindsay Bahr has to say:

OK, so it’s basically “Big” with superheroes and villains instead of businesspeople and girlfriends, but director David F. Sandberg has infused his film with so much heart and charm that it hardly matters. Even the deficiencies, like the sluggish beginning and the random, ridiculous villains, fade away under a haze of goodwill because unlike so many big spectacle action pics with sequels in mind, “Shazam!” actually sticks the landing.

Now, let’s check out an excerpt from the review of The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee:

Buoyant and unpretentious, Shazam! aims low and mostly succeeds, a kid-friendly caper powered with enough energy to keep its target audience engaged with a fun central conceit that plays like a cross between Big and Superman.

And here’s what Variety’s Owen Gleiberman has to say:

“Shazam!” suggests that if you’re taking a superhero’s powers deadly seriously, you may not be totally connecting with the spirit of the comics. The movie says: You’ve got to giggle at this stuff. That’s part of the adventure.

Even though Shazam! has been marketed as a fun, light-hearted movie from the very beginning, it does seem to make room for a few dark moments as well. According to Newsday’s Rafer Guzman:

“Shazam!” has some surprisingly dark moments involving its villain, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who was turned down by the wizard as a child and — understandably — has been fuming about it ever since. Sivana wreaks some very real havoc on people, slightly unbalancing the movie's otherwise light tone. Overall, though,“Shazam!” is a welcome antidote to the usual brooding DC fare, an upbeat superhero movie that feels young at heart.

A number of critics are pointing out that Shazam!’s strength is the part of the story that revolves around family and friendship. In the words of io9’s Germain Lussier:

While the superhero action and comedy may be Shazam’s big selling points, what makes it truly great is the touching story of a foster family weaved around everything else. Even as we see superheroes, villains, and sidekicks arise, Shazam is very careful to spend a decent amount of time focusing on Billy’s life as a foster child.

And in that of USA Today’s Brian Truitt:

But, really, the high-flying showdowns and the holiday-themed action-packed finale (which is highly satisfying, though it goes on a bit too long) are secondary. "Shazam!” works because of its emphasis on friendship and family: Mrs. Vasquez has a bumper sticker that reads “I’m a foster mom: What’s your superpower?” that sums up the film's overall warm-hug vibe.

The film critics are speaking highly of the Zachary Levi-led cast of Shazam! The film critics are speaking highly of the Zachary Levi-led cast of Shazam! (Photo Credit - Warner Bros.)

When Zachary Levi landed the role of the original Captain Marvel, there were quite a few people who weren’t really happy about the casting. They would have probably loved to see John Cena in the role. But the reviews of Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty and IGN’s Jim Vejvoda seem to indicate that Levi is the perfect fit for the role. According to Nashawaty:

Shazam! is a lot jokier and zippier than the spandex tentpoles we’ve come to expect from DC’s often-lugubrious stable of cinematic superheroes. The credit for that almost entirely goes to Zachary Levi (Chuck), who plays the title character with an infectiously naïve, gee-whiz charisma that calls to mind Tom Hanks in Big more than anything. Whenever Levi is on screen, wowed by his new grown-up physique (his muscles seem to have muscles) and shocked by his newly discovered powers (living lightning zaps from his fingertips), the movie soars.

And here’s what Vejvoda says about Levi:

Zachary Levi is perfect as Shazam. He’s hilarious, heartwarming and completely believable as a 14-year-old boy trapped in a muscle-bound superhero's body, excelling in both the action scenes as well as in the more vulnerable moments.

There’s praise for Mark Strong, who portrays the villainous Doctor Sivana, as well. According to Scott Menzel of We Live Entertainment:

Mark Strong plays Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, the film’s villain. Sivana has a solid backstory and one that plays into the central theme of the film which revolves around family. If you know Strong’s work as an actor, you are probably well aware that he is no stranger to playing the bad guy. I really liked seeing Strong play a menacing madman who wants nothing more than to steal the powers of Shazam from Billy. I feel like this character could have easily been a throwaway villain but Strong made sure that wasn’t going to be the case.

Vital Thrills’ Jenna Busch seems to be of the same mind about Strong’s villain. She says:

We also have a villain in Mark Strong who has the slight mustache-twirling feel of the ones you knew about as kids, but he also has enough gravitas to pull off a multi-film arc. (This is certainly likely to get a sequel.)

The critics are also speaking highly of the supporting cast that includes Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman, Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley, Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfield, Ian Chen as Eugene Choi, and Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña. For instance, let’s check out an excerpt from the review of TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde:

The cast is consistently sharp, with Grazer in particular managing great chemistry with both versions of Billy. Levi’s body language is constantly inventive, as he plays a tween who still isn’t used to a grown man’s body, let alone a superhero’s.

And here’s what Geeks of Color’s Dorian Parks has to say:

One of the standout characters who I know you are going to love is Faithe Herman’s character, Darla. She steals every scene she’s in and she is absolutely adorable. Her relationship with Billy and the others is heartwarming because it felt like they were truly a family. Eugene Choi, Jovan Armand, and Grace Fulton round out the foster family and each of them were fantastic and had their own moments to shine.

There are a few complaints about Shazam!, the most prominent of which is its visual effects. According to IndieWire’s David Ehrlich:

Sandberg’s coherent, tactile direction also harkens back to a time before every fantasy movie was pre-vizzed within an inch of its life. Sure, there’s plenty of digital effects work, and much of it shows the strain of the movie’s relatively meager $90 million budget, but even the biggest setpieces are layered, character-driven, and littered with solid grace notes.

So, judging by the first wave of reviews, it feels safe to say that the upcoming DC superhero adventure has all that it takes to draw big crowds to theaters. But it remains to be seen how it eventually performs at the box office.

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