Of all the superheroes getting a movie, Shazam seemed the silliest. Almost as silly as the oceanic Aquaman. What a time we live in when these two superpowered protagonists end up with entertaining films. But Warner Brothers has found the key to unlocking what makes engaging stories for DC’s less popular comic book stars, and that includes Shazam!, the newest in the current trend of superhero movies.

Though Shazam! is fun-filled, the plot allows for some dark elements. Billy Batson (Asher Angel) seeks out his missing mom and has been shuttled from one foster home to another. The villain, Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong), lives up to his role and does some truly evil actions—you don’t want to be in any company boardroom when he comes calling. Yet, somehow, Shazam! also shows a lot of heart. Will Billy realize his new foster family filled with other foster kids is the family he needs? Of course, Billy also has another issue most foster kids don’t deal with: he’s been selected by a dying wizard (Djimon Hounsou) to become the superhero meant to save Earth from the monstrous Seven Deadly Sins.

The movie starts slow, giving time for Sivana’s backstory. We also lead into Billy meeting his new foster parents (the delightful Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews) and the introduction of the five other foster children in the house. Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), who is a big fan of superheroes like Superman and Batman, is excited when Billy ends up in an adult body as the tights-and-cape-wearing Shazam (played by Zachary Levi). It’s also Freddy who helps Billy/Shazam learn the extent of Shazam’s capabilities.

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Levi brings out the humor as a boy in an adult’s body. The scenes between Levi and Grazer keep the movie bubbling along with laughs. The other young actors help build the emotion in the film, and the special effects fit the tone of the movie—kind of cheesy, kind of spooky. Strong’s well-dressed villain looks great flying, and when he and Levi’s Shazam meet in the skies, the CGI action is at its best.

Director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle: Creation) somehow finds that fine line between cheesy fun, emotional heft and some good action scenes. Shazam! creates a new superhero that audiences will want to see more of, and hopefully the film makes enough money for a sequel.

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