Yes, the latest superhero opus at your local multiplex is basically a rehash of the Tom Hanks movie, “Big.”
But it’s been 30 years since that hit film, and there is clearly still a lot of comedy to mine from the idea, especially when the kid who becomes an adult overnight is granted Superman-like power. Also, Shazam is funnier than Big.
Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a foster kid who is still in search of his birth mother and at the start of the film, we find him once again planning his escape from his latest foster family, despite the fact that the parents and kids seem to make up a quirky, loving, pretty perfect clan.
Billy is a conflicted, kind of angry kid, but a powerful wizard (Djimon Hounsou) believes he’s finally found the mortal who is worthy of the powers of Shazam, which includes the power of Zeus, the wisdom of Solomon, and the speed of Mercury.
But when Billy says the magic word, he doesn’t just get superpowers, he also transforms into a man. Thankfully, one of his new foster siblings, Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Glazer) is a student of all things having to do with super heroics. This film takes place in the DC Universe after all. He helps Billy figure out flight and how to manipulate the lightning bolts he literally has at his fingertips.
But, of course, there is a super-villain lingering around who wants all of that power for himself. Mark Strong plays Thaddeuas Sivana, and it’s a role the actor slips into with ease, which is no surprise considering he has made a career of playing bad guys, including some other comic book villains like Sinestro, the best thing about the Green Lantern film.
The movie doesn’t break any new ground in the superhero genre, but there are some pleasant surprises along the way, and it is saved time and time again by it’s humor. A moviegoer sitting near me groaned a few times at some maudlin scenes that verged on the cornball side, before breaking into a big laugh at the comedic pay-off in the same scene. It helps that Dylan Glazer has the comic timing and delivery of the best comedy actors out there, many of them twice his age. The movie is worth the price of admission alone to watch the up and coming Dylan Glazer.
Zachary Levi is also very good as the big, red-clad hero, with the heart and mind of a kid.
He’s funny, the kids are funny, and the premise remains funny. In the latest comic book movie come to life, it is humor that saves the day.