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Shazam! (3D in some cinemas)


Stars: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Michelle Borth, Faithe Herman, Djimon Hounsou, Jack Dylan Grazer, Marta Milans, Grace Fulton, Meagan Good

Director: David F Sandberg

Back in the 1940s' comics, Billy Batson could transform himself into Captain Marvel simply by saying 'Shazam!', as could his sister Mary, who became Mary Marvel. More recently, however, the character has crossed over from DC (home of Superman and Batman) to Marvel Studios, and become a woman.

So poor Billy, in this new incarnation, is left as the superhero who dare not speak his name. The film starts well, with a small boy, bullied by his father and older brother, finding himself, as if by magic, transported from the family car into a cavern, surrounded by monster statues representing the seven deadly sins, and confronted by supreme wizard Shazam (Hounsou), who needs a champion to keep the red-eyed sins at bay.

When the boy''s attention is taken by a brightly-lit, oscillating globe, the wizard knows he is not The One. Instead, he will grow up to be the villain of the piece (Strong), while the wizard has more luck with Billy (Angel), who has lost touch with his mother and been taken in to a conglomerate foster home.

'Put your hands on my staff!' commands the wizard. 'Gross!' replies Billy, recoiling, in one of the film's wittier moments.

Eventually, however, he complies, with 'Shazam!' turning him into a superhero (Levi), more concerned (as would any 14-year-old boy be) with showing off his new powers than getting down to the serious stuff.

This might not be the best or slickest superhero movie, but it is good fun, almost if not quite, a comedy. And at least they've retained the original Marvel costumes in a snook-cock to the mighty Disney universe of today.

David Quinlan

USA 2019. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by Fotokem.
131 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 30 Mar 2019