The newest entry into the DC Universe swoops into theatres this weekend, ready to lighten up the typical grim and gritty DC superhero film with the tale of how a kid named Billy Batson became a hero by uttering the word, “Shazam!”
But should you take your kids to see it?
As parents and film fans, we want to share the best of the cinematic world with our kids. But when you haven’t seen a new movie yet, how do you know if you should take your kids? Obviously every kid is different, and they change with age; the same child who had to be escorted, weeping, out of Guardians of the Galaxy might completely fall in love with Deadpool two years later (true story). But it’s also true that movie marketing can be misleading – no-one wants to be that mom who had to leave Pan’s Labyrinth with an emotionally-scarred 10-year-old. With this ongoing feature, we’ll aim to offer some loose, spoiler-free, age-by-age guidelines as to what parents might expect from new features marketed to families, so you can make the best judgment call for your youngsters.
Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is a foster kid who’s bounced around from home to home, mainly because he keeps running away to search for his birth mother. After his latest shenanigans, he’s placed with a new family. Victor and Rosa Vasquez run a group home full of kids like Billy, and they’re warm and welcoming. That’s where he meets Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), a disabled kid who reveres superheroes.
When Billy stands up to a pair of high school bullies who are roughing up Freddy, that act seals Billy as someone pure of heart and worthy of being a champion, according to an ancient wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou, on load from the MCU). He transports Billy via enchanted subway car to the Rock of Eternity and imbues him with the powers of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. All Billy has to do is say the word “Shazam!” and he’s transformed from a scruffy 14-year-old kid into a buff 30-year-old red suited superhero (played by Zachary Levi).
Taking a vastly different approach than the typical DC movie, Shazam! has a lot of fun with the usual cliches. In lieu of a training montage, we get Billy and Freddy giddily testing Shazam’s powers and uploading the results to YouTube. And for most of the movie, that’s… pretty much all they do, aside from stopping a mugging or two and posing for selfies for tips. It isn’t until the Big Bad (Mark Strong) arrives and threatens Billy’s newfound family that he finally “mans up” and realizes being a hero isn’t all free beer and autographs.
For more details, read Victor Stiff’s full review here.
So, should you take your kids to see it?
Honestly, I don’t think this movie is right for really young kids. There are scary and violent scenes, disgusting nightmare-inducing monsters, and several innocent people die very grisly and graphic deaths. The young kids at the screening we attended mostly watched those parts through their fingers. There’s also an emotionally affecting scene when toddler Billy is first separated from his mother; and more emotions later on when he finally finds her that might be hard to explain to younger kids.
Tweens and Teens
This movie is squarely in the Venn diagram for kids who like superhero movies, and who’ve ever fantasized about being one. It’s the ultimate in wish fulfillment: one word transforms you from a helpless kid into a bad-ass with superpowers including speed, flight, strength, and invulnerability! Plus there’s plenty of humour here for older kids to enjoy, from the snarky banter between Freddy and Billy to the slapstick as Shazam works out how his powers… well, work. Add in the glowering Big Bad, a couple of cool fight scenes, and a spectacular final showdown with a twist ending, and that’s enough to satisfy even the coolest teen.
It’s fine. It’s a nice blend of DC darkness lightened with a little Marvel-style levity, and there’s a great message about family at the very end. It’s a fun but ultimately forgettable film, worth seeing but not rushing out for. As a Torontonian, my main source of entertainment was spotting all the places where this movie was filmed – a local school, the Bentway park under the Gardiner expressway, and of course, the subway.
Wee time: If you have a really little kid with you, about 20 minutes in there’s a lot of pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo followed by a gruesome death that could be missed. Aside from that, there’s some non-critical chit-chat at the 45 minute and 60 minute marks that could be missed if you have to dash out to the restroom. (Note that these timestamps are from the start of the actual movie, not the trailers and ads that run before.)
Bottom line: It’s not exactly a can’t-miss, but if you crave a superhero flick that’s more lighthearted than the Avengers have been lately, you can’t go wrong with Shazam. And definitely stay to the end of the credits… ALL the credits.
Jenny Bullough is a movie fan and mom based in Toronto. She has missed the middle 5 minutes of every kids’ movie because of her kid’s small bladder, and she let her kids watch Deadpool at an inappropriately young age and stands by her choices.
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