RATED PG-13 | 5-stars
Shazam!, the DC Universe’s latest offering, tells the story of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a 14-year old who’s bounced around the foster care system since being abandoned as a child. Billy’s been running from house to house as he continues a years-long search for his birth mom. After a run-in with the Philadelphia police, he lands in the care and home of Victor and Rosa Vasquez, the foster parents of a unique crew of foster kids—Freddy, Darla, Mary, Eugene, and Pedro.
Just as Billy is getting used to acceptance by his new foster siblings, he’s summoned by the Wizard Shazam, the last surviving member of a group of magicians sworn to protect the world from the Seven Deadly Sins. The wizard has been searching for a “champion” who is pure of heart to take on the mantle of responsibility, for he has grown weak and can no longer fight.
After Billy reluctantly agrees to take the power, he’s transformed into a superhero-sized adult (Zachary Levi) in a red and gold costume he can’t take off unless he transforms back into his kid-self by saying his new name, “Shazam!” Confused by his new physical state, Billy enlists the help of his new foster brother, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer).
As Billy and Freddy gleefully (and hilariously) explore his newfound superpowers, they begin a friendship that Billy never thought possible. Billy has lived on his own for so long, always trying to take care of himself because he thought no one else would. Could there be something to this whole “family” thing after all?
Meanwhile, we discover that Dr. Silvana (Mark Strong) has been on his own mission—to find the magical place where, as a child, he had been cast away by the wizard for he proved unfit to be the champion because he was not pure of heart. He finds the lair and takes on the evil power of the Seven Deadly Sins. When he returns to Philadelphia, Silvana and his seven nightmarish monsters exact violent revenge upon Silvana’s emotionally abusive father and his business associates. Next on the list? Defeat and destroy the wizard’s champion—before he realizes his true potential.
The focus on a foster kid as a superhero is something I’ve never seen before, and I loved that aspect. The value of family is a major theme, as Billy has come to the conclusion that only weak people need families. When he meets Victor and Rosa’s foster family though, he finds a completely unexpected level of acceptance, love, support, and compassion. Billy tentatively, often clumsily, tries to reciprocate the “family thing.”
Not to spoil any surprises, but Billy does come around by the end, especially when he’s put in a position where he must protect his new family from the evil Silvana and his horrifying creatures.
Victor and Rosa, as down-to-earth foster parents who appreciate the young lives who have been put in their care, absolutely stole my heart. They demonstrated love and support for all the children individually and uniquely, living out what Psalm 127:3-5 tells us: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
Not to be forgotten, the foster siblings are all supportive and understanding of one another as well. They quickly invite Billy into their world—no questions asked. Jesus talks about how to love sacrificially in John 15:12-17 and how there is no greater love than one who would lay down his life for his friends. In the end, Billy chooses family over “self,” which is a message I can 100% support!
It’s important to note that Shazam! is rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material.” That is, there are things unsuitable for many kids under 13, but their parents must make that call. For specific details, I refer parents to the Parental Guide at IMDB. Check the content list and see where Shazam! falls in or out of your personal boundaries or the boundaries you have for your kids.
As Christians teens, it’s vital to practice spiritual discernment about what we watch and how we respond to it. Movies often involve things we may eventually encounter in the world (if we haven’t already). So a film can be a great way to start discussions with parents and friends about how we would act if we found ourselves in similar circumstances to the characters.
Some things that prompted meaningful conversations with my 12-year old: Shazam! has scary monsters and violence, often accompanied by disturbing screams; teenage mischief is exhibited, such as stealing, lying, profanity; an “adult” establishment makes two appearances (though we never see the inside, it’s fairly obvious what the place is). At one point, Freddy and Billy (who now looks like an adult) purchase beer to try for the first time. When they do, they spit it out in disgust, then go trade it back in for sweets and junk food instead.
After both viewings of Shazam!, my son and I had some good discussions about what we saw. Our talks benefitted his understanding of what’s morally OK and what’s not, how to treat family members kindly, plus we established that he’s not quite as scared of monsters as he used to be when he was much younger. (Which is good for me to know, as a parent.)
Shazam! shows the value and worth of having a loving family so clearly, I find it difficult to fault the film for its few content shortcomings. The things my son learned through our interaction over the movie are valuable and will (hopefully) help shape him as he grows into a young man of God.
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.