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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Shazam! is a DC Comics-based superhero comedy that's like Big meets Superman because the main character is a 14-year-old who's given a magical gift. He can transform into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi) whenever he says the titular magic word. There are definitely some dark moments, but this is still the DC Extended Universe's most lighthearted and tween-friendly film to date. Just be ready for lots of fantasy action violence, including a few deaths (some via disintegration), scary/disturbing "Seven Deadly Sins" monsters, gun use, chases/pursuits and crashes, property destruction, and big fights. Kids are also bullied. Language isn't constant, but characters do say "ass," "s--t," "oh my God," and more. And you can expect a little innuendo/suggestive humor, especially in scenes where characters go into a strip club. More serious themes include abandonment, disability, and more. But there are positive messages about the importance of family (the movie's example of a loving, caring foster home is refreshing), generosity, courage, teamwork, and standing up for others.
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What's the story?
SHAZAM! centers on troublemaking 14-year-old foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who gets a last-chance placement with a large, diverse foster family. One day at school, Billy protects his new foster brother, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), who has a physical disability, from bullies and ends up in the secret lair of a powerful but aging wizard (Djimon Hounsou). Suddenly the wizard gives Billy the ability to transform into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi) by saying the word "Shazam!" In his new grown-up body, Billy tells Freddy what happened, and they start testing out Shazam's superpowers. Shazam thinks all he'll have to do is pose for pictures ... until he runs into Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who seeks to destroy Billy in order to fully unleash monsters known as the Seven Deadly Sins on the world.
Is it any good?
This refreshingly delightful, lighthearted entry in the DC Extended Universe has enough charm for the whole family thanks to standout performances, broad humor, and positive messages. Considering the angst of most previous DC-based thrillers, this one is downright adorable, despite occasional moments of darkness. Angel and Grazer have a brotherly chemistry that Levi replicates with Grazer when he's Shazam. The storyline offers a rare look at a loving, stable foster family that consists of encouraging parents Rosa (Marta Milans) and Victor Vasquez (Cooper Andrews) and a diverse house full of kids, from college-bound senior Mary (Grace Fulton) and gaming enthusiast Eugene (Ian Chen) to quiet Pedro (Jovan Armand) and adoring/adorable young Darla (Faithe Herman). Billy, who resents being a foster kid, may not see how amazing this family is, but audiences will.
Strong makes Sivana a formidable antagonist who has family issues of his own. His backstory somewhat humanizes him, even as his present-day actions show off his ruthless, power-hungry nature. With the exception of Envy, the Seven Deadly Sins aren't dwelled upon for their characteristics and are just grotesque monsters unleashed by Sivana. There's a climactic battle, of course, but this is no tear-jerking story; it's an uplifting one. Billy and Freddy learn what Shazam is capable of and why a supportive family is the most valuable superpower of all. When the foster siblings unite to take on bullies, they can't be defeated, and that's a happy message indeed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Shazam! How does it compare to what you've seen in other superhero movies? Do different types of violence have a different impact?
Why do you think body-changing movies are compelling to viewers? What are some other movies that tackle the subject of kids changing into grown-ups, and vice versa? What's funnier? Why?
How does the movie's portrayal of foster parents and homes compare to other media depictions of life in the foster care system? Besides Rosa and Victor Vazquez, what other foster parents are role models in films?
How does the film portray bullying? Does it feel realistic? How do the characters handle it?
- In theaters: April 5, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: July 16, 2019
- Cast: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong
- Director: David F. Sandberg
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Character strengths: Courage, Gratitude, Teamwork
- Run time: 132 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: January 4, 2020
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