- 19 Apr 19
Zachary Levi just about redeems generic superhero flick.
Anyone who has watched The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel knows how charming Zachary Levi is onscreen. He has the square-jawed, all-American handsomeness of a 1950s movie star, but the goofy exuberance of a teenage fanboy.
All of these traits make him perfect to play the lead in David F. Sandberg’s Shazam!, which sees mildly rebellious 14-year-old Billy Batson imbued with the power to transform into a buff, godlike superbeing. Except, Billy isn’t sure he’s superhero material. The source of this imposter syndrome is obvious – Billy (played by Asher Angel in teen form) is a foster child who has never felt important, or wanted. But when a supervillain (Mark Strong), hellbent on stealing Shazam’s powers, begins ravaging Philadelphia, Billy’s foster siblings encourage him to step up and (yawn) become the hero he was always destined to be.
Shazam! has the potential to be a fun, old-school adventure with hidden depths. Billy’s growing relationship with his foster family is affecting, though some of his foster siblings remain underwritten. More generally, there’s a plastic, corporate feel to the whole film, which is amusing but never laugh-out-loud funny; visually competent but not stylistically original; and – for all the promise of zippy excitement – flabbily paced.
Levi at least is having fun, his puppyish excitement occasionally transcending the rote material. But he’s a bright spark in a film that never ignites.