We have a longstanding theory here at Newsarama that one of the surest ways you can guarantee audiences are going to have fun at your superhero movie is let your superhero have a lot of fun being a superhero.
Robert Downey Jr. set the MCU tone for 11 years and 22 movies in the first five minutes of 2008 Iron Man riffing with the soldiers in the jeep.
Joss Whedon crafted what still might be the genre's signature sequence – the tour de force last act of 2012's Avengers – by finally letting the Hulk out of his self-imposed cage and letting him 'smash' (and riff) with full impunity.
And while technically not the ' hero, 'has anyone ever had any more fun in a superhero movie than Heath Ledger in 2008's The Dark Knight ?
In a period in which superhero films are aiming for market firsts and social milestones Warner Bros. / New Line Cinema's Shazam! is not only the first Marvel or DC adaptation to get into kids as the main protagonists, but completely gives itself to the pure joy of superheroics, and predictably, it's hard to be caught up in the infectious energy of it all .
Credit: New Line Cinema
How Warner Bros. close-knit model for more individual films – is the subject of another day, particularly with Todd Phillips' The Joker first teaser trailer dropping Wednesday and looking absolutely nothing like Shazam!
But make no mistake, DC's own "Captain Marvel" is unique to the market – almost a full-on comedy but respecting the character and genre just enough to stay on the right side of action-adventure
The way it achieves that balance isn't perfect. At times director David F. Sandberg teeters between wanting Shazam! to be in 1980s Amblin-style kids-alone adventure (where it is at its best) and wanting to credibly exist in the established DC Universe (where it is sometimes awkward.
Shazam! 's six wizards / six gods / seven deadly sins / Rock of Eternity mythology is a bit dense and will likely be lost to some degree on moviegoers who aren't familiar going into. And Mark Strong's Thaddeus Sivana can frankly be a bit shockingly brutal for what is being marketed (if not directly) as an all-around movie.
Shazam! The charm and enthusiasm of its leads
It 's Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman is maybe the movie's secret weapon. Snarky, whipsmart and dare we say Stark-like but at the same time human and vulnerable, he is the heart and glue of the film that binds Asher Angel's Billy Batson and Zachary Levi's Shazam. And that is not a easy task that you can think of, because there is something to nitpick in Shazam! is that the movie does show symptoms of cinematic body switch syndrome.
That's when the performance of The adult playing the kid doesn't quite match the performance of the kid playing the kid.
Angel exhibits some star-making qualities as Billy, but in playing a perpetually disappointed, guarded, orphaned foster child in search of his real mother, his performance is mostly lowkey. Angel as Batson is compelling and appealing, but hardly affable and demonstrative.
Levi, however, fully commits to the comedic side of the equation in a way audiences have seen since perhaps the older, good Will Ferrell comedies
As Shazam, Levi goes no holds barred golly-gee-whiz without abandon, doing a 38-year-old version of how 14-year-old would act, and then sometimes a 38-year-old Old acting like how a 14 year old would act as a 38 year old …
… turned up to 11.
And while it's nearly impossible to resist is having a good time at it, it doesn't quite feel like batson and also not quite the comic book character that maybe a little earnest and unjaded but also carries with him the wisdom of solomon in his bag of powers.
But Levi's mainlining of pure zeal makes those small shortcomings easily forgivable.
At its best moments Shazam! , Directly paying homage with a wink, a nod, and some musical notes to Tom Hanks Big . It's unabashedly wide-eyed, happy and sentimental, which in the sub-genre or shared superhero universes feels brand new. And that's more than good enough to take its place among DC's.
Shazam! opens April 5.