Entertainment Weekend: New “Shazam!” has more of everything, but less charm | Newstalk Florida
Sequels, by nature, are more. Whatever the original, just add more, the rule seems to be. Even more words in the title – how often is the title of a sequel shorter than the original?
And so, exactly four years after the original DC superhero pic “Shazam!” surprised by its clever mix of innocence and silliness, and enough wit to blunt the inevitable plot ridiculousness, we have “Shazam! Fury of the Gods. It brings five times the title wording, more action , more villains, more monsters and more wattage – Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren, for example.
But no more charm. The sequel, again directed by David F. Sandberg, seems less fun, less fresh, less fast. (At two hours and 10 minutes, it’s actually two minutes shorter than the original, but it doesn’t feel any shorter).
In its favor, however, certain elements lent its pleasures to the original, particularly Zachary Levi and his goofy (though perhaps more frantic) efforts to play a youngster in a grown-up superhero body, and Jack Dylan Grazer as the talkative, always-thinking best friend (and foster brother) Freddy — this time with a love interest to appeal to Rachel Zegler. He also smartly drops the colorless villain, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, who is apparently still in that solitary cell.
First, a reminder of the plot. We’re back in Philadelphia with teenage hero Billy Batson (Asher Angel), the foster child who in the original was gifted with magical powers by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) and learned that the word “Shazam!” turned him into a beefy superhero (Levi). But now his adoptive family (well, just the siblings) has joined the superhero business.
It’s not going very well, however. The group is known in the City of Brotherly Love as the “Philadelphia Fiascoes”, due to frequent youthful mistakes. We know teenagers only have partially developed brains, right? It doesn’t matter how many buses or wagons they can hold with one arm.
And there’s a big new villain to fight – actually three, the ancient Daughters of the Atlas, who arrive in the human world to reclaim their stolen magic.
It turns out that the mythical staff of the gods, which Billy/Shazam had broken at the end of the first movie, is in a museum, and let’s just say visitors aren’t having a good day when two daughters of Atlas appear – Hespera and Kalypso – ready to annihilate anyone in their path. They are soon revealed as Mirren and Lucy Liu, adding a real evil goddess vibe to the proceedings.
Meanwhile, Billy/Shazam is in therapy, saying he feels like an impostor. (He went to a pediatrician by mistake, but it’s not hard to diagnose impostor syndrome.) Soon, however, he and his siblings are called upon to save the town from a falling bridge. collapses.
The funniest parts of “Shazam!” and now its sequel involves the overlap between teen life and superhero life. Check out the teen-designed secret lair, complete with all the Skittles and other junk food anyone would want (Skittles will play a key role at some point.) There, we also learn what each of the siblings are currently busy with. The eldest, Mary, who studies organic chemistry for fun, wants to go to college because of the superhero life. And Freddy wants to forge his own identity.
But Billy, abandoned as a child by his parents, wants family unity at all costs. Mary tries to tell him that nothing lasts forever – besides, he will soon be 18 and the checks to his adoptive parents will stop coming. So what? (Do you think we’ll get a scene later where someone assures him that family lasts forever?)
Meanwhile, the Daughters of Atlas, along with a big old dragon and a few other monsters, are on the warpath. Where is the third, you ask? Ah, she pretends to be human and she shined with Freddy, who can’t believe his luck.
That’s all you need to know to understand the action. And there are many. Still, the best moments are when the spirit of the original shines through – like when Hespera (Mirren) reads aloud a letter that was dictated by the young superheroes to a magical quill pen, which, like a smartphone, picks up the alien dialogue, meaning she’s gravely repeating, “Anyone else want a Gatorade?” (Might Mirren – and Liu too – have more comedic moments.
The action, laden with CGI battles, could fatally weigh down the film if it weren’t for Levi, who brings the agility of a musical theater performer (have you ever seen him sing while doing cartwheels at Broadway?) and Grazer, a bit older but still irascible, not to mention stubborn (“We can’t let her die, she called me sweet!”).
Angel still makes an attractive teen Billy, and Hounsou gets a dashing fashion moment. The family is back and adoptive mother Rosa gets at least one good line amid the apocalyptic destruction: “I’m not quite sure how to parent here.”
Oh wait, we forgot the unicorns!
Did we need a dragon AND unicorns? Well, of course we did, because in a sequel there is always more.
“Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” a New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. release, was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America “for action and violence sequences, and language.” : 130 minutes Two and a half stars out of four.
MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some content may be inappropriate for children under 13