The gang is back in taking second servings for DC’s more family-friendly comic book film, Shazam! Fury of the Gods. That is if you can define this as “family-friendly.” Considering the content is slightly darker than the first film, I doubt you can. As children-turned-muscular adult bodies, Billy Batts (Asher Angel/Zachary Levi) and company find themselves confronted with a trio of goddesses (Lucy Liu, Helen Mirren, Rachel Zeigler) who come back to take what belonged to them while also threatening to destroy the human world. So, of course, they get together and have to take on something bigger than themselves.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods gets to be fun as the teen gang frolics through saving people. However, they are also considered guilty of making things worse after an incident on a collapsing bridge. For Billy’s best friend, Freddie (Jack Dylan Glazer/Adam Brody), it is about trying to find your identity without anyone else’s help. As for the rest of the family, it’s just being able to not worry about being aged out of the foster system. Billy is months away from aging out but continues moonlighting as an extraordinary person with extraordinary powers, all while hiding it from his foster parents. Then, the childish games end.
Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a childish film that does not read well when talking about great actors given little to do. Yes, it’s a superhero movie, but Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, and Rachel Zegler in her first feature since West Side Story should have more. Instead, this is a little painful to watch. However, Levi remains perfect as the titular character because of his natural ability to keep a juvenile personality as a full-grown adult. Dialogue is not a major thing for these types of films, but I would say to make an effort. The story is fragile as well. While it looks good on paper, the logical holes, including the ending, are a problem throughout the whole picture.
The movie does not take itself too seriously, either. What gives? Well, it becomes too loose and goofy for a “family-friendly” action movie. While it may believe it is a family comedy, it is not. Not with the opening scene where Liu and Mirren’s character get the broken staff from the first film, then perform a death-by-stone on the whole museum (including kids) in Greece. Later, they force a teacher (under a hypnotic state) to throw himself off a building. That’s a bit too much for a kid’s movie. At one point, Shazam even has a 10-year-old girl complete a product placement ad and then yell, “Taste the rainbow, mother-” (it cuts away before she drops the F-word).
For director David F. Sandberg, this is just plopping people in places and going along with a script that doesn’t try to be coherent. The film is set in Philadelphia but shot in Atlanta; you could see the Atlanta Hawks logo in the background of one scene. It should have taken itself more seriously, so the fun is not forced or comes from cliched ideas. It is a shame because I did want to like this film. Instead, the fury is less with the Gods and more in my mind as I watched this develop.
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