Entertainment Weekend:New ‘Shazam!’ has more everything but less charm | Newstalk Florida

Sequels are inherently more. Whatever the original had, just add more seems to be the rule. Even more words in the title – how often is the title of a sequel shorter than that of the original?

And so, exactly four years after the original DC Superhero picture, Shazam! amazes with its clever mix of innocence and silliness, and enough wit to dull the plot’s inevitable ridiculousness, we have Shazam! Wrath of the gods.” It features five times the title language, more action, more villains, more monsters and more star power – Oscar winner Helen Mirren, for example.

But no more charm. The sequel, again directed by David F. Sandberg, feels less breezy, less fresh, less light-footed. (At two hours and 10 minutes, it’s actually two minutes shorter than the original, but it doesn’t feel shorter).

That said, however, there are a few elements that gave the original its joy, notably Zachary Levi and his goofy efforts (albeit perhaps more frenetic) to play a youth in an adult superhero body, and Jack Dylan Grazer as the fast-talking, always-thinking best friend (and foster brother) Freddy – this time with a love interest in attracting Rachel Zegler. It also leaves the colorless villain Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, who appears to be still in that lonely cell.

First, a plot refresh. We’re back in Philadelphia with teen hero Billy Batson (Asher Angel), the foster kid who was bestowed with magical powers by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) in the original and learned that the word “Shazam!” turned him into a strapping one Superheroes (Levi). But now his foster family (well, just the siblings) has joined the superhero business.

But things aren’t going so well. The group is known in the city of brotherly love as the “Philadelphia Fiascoes” for common teenage mistakes. We know teenagers only have partially developed brains, right? No matter how many buses or train cars they can hold with one arm.

And there’s a big new villain to fight – actually three, the ancient daughters of Atlas, who come to the human world to reclaim their stolen magic.

It turns out that the mythical staff of the gods that Billy/Shazam broke at the end of the first film lies in a museum, and let’s just say the visitors are having a bad day when two daughters of Atlas show up – Hespera and Calypso – ready to crush anyone in her path. They’re soon revealed to be Mirren and Lucy Liu, giving the action a really mean goddess vibe.

Meanwhile, Billy/Shazam is in a therapy session and says he feels like a cheater. (He mistakenly went to a pediatrician, but it’s not hard to diagnose imposter syndrome.) Soon, however, he and his siblings are called to save the city from a collapsing bridge.

The funniest parts of “Shazam!” and now its sequel includes the intersection between teenage life and superhero life. Experience the teen-designed secret hideout, complete with all the skittles and other junk food everyone wants (skittles will play a key role at one point). There we also learn what each of the siblings is currently doing. The eldest, Mary, who studies organic chemistry for fun, longs for college instead of living as a superhero. And Freddy wants to forge his own identity.

But Billy, who was abandoned by his parents as a child, wants family unity at all costs. Mary tries to tell him that nothing lasts forever – besides, he’ll be 18 soon and checks to his foster parents won’t come. Then what? (Do you think we have a scene later where someone reassures him his family will last forever?)

Meanwhile, the Daughters of Atlas are on the warpath, accompanied by a big ancient dragon and some other monsters. Where is the third you ask? Ah, she pretends to be human and has taken a liking to Freddy, who can hardly believe his luck.

That’s all you need to know to understand the action. And there are many. The best moments, however, are when the joke of the original shines through – like when Hespera (Mirren) reads aloud a letter the young superheroes have dictated to a magical quill pen that, like a smartphone, captures the alien dialogue, meaning it’s her and repeats seriously, “Anyone else want a Gatorade?” (Would Mirren – and Liu too – have more funny moments like this.

The CGI-fighting action could deadly strain the film if it weren’t for Levi, who brings the agility of a musical theater performer (have you ever seen him sing while cartwheeling on Broadway?) and Grazer, a little older but always short-tempered, not to mention her single-mindedness (“We can’t let her die, she called me cute!”).

Angel still makes an attractive teenage Billy, and Hounsou has a stunning fashion moment. The family is back, and amid the apocalyptic devastation, foster mom Rosa gets at least one good line: “I’m not quite sure how I’m going to parent here.”

Oh wait, we forgot about the unicorns!

Did we need a dragon AND unicorns? Well, of course we did, because there’s always more in a sequel.

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods, a New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. release, was rated PG-13 “for sequences of action and violence and speech” by the Motion Picture Association of America. Running time: 130 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.


MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents Urgently Warned. Some materials may be unsuitable for children under 13 years of age


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