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Movie Reviews Archives for 2019-04

Movie Review Avengers Endgame

We’ve reached the Endgame, if not the finale of the Marvel Universe, the definitive ending of a chapter at the very least. One of the great tricks pulled off in Avengers Endgame by directors Joe and Anthony Russo is how they have crafted a story that is both a definitive ending and a new beginning that doesn’t leave you exhausted and dreading the future. When it was first announced that Avengers Endgame would balloon to just over three hours in length, I was among those who worried that the MCU was overstaying its welcome. That feeling is completely allayed after Endgame. 

 

Avengers Endgame picks up the story with Earth’s greatest heroes still reeling from ‘The Snap,’ Thanos’s victory and the wholesale destruction of half the people in the universe. Those left behind, including Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) along with disparate members of the MCU, the remaining heroes of Wakanda, the missing Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are still spoiling for a fight. 

 

But first, Tony Stark needs to be retrieved from somewhere in deep space where food has run out and air will soon follow. Tony and Nebula (Karen Gillen) were the only survivors of The Snap in a group that included Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and The Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Mantis (Klemm Pomentieff), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Drax (Dave Bautista). Near death, Tony spots a light in the sky that proves to be a savior. I won’t spoil the fun, you can see for yourself who has the honor. 

 

Nebula knows where Thanos has gone and with her information the Avengers are able to locate him and make a play to regain the Infinity Gauntlet and those incredibly powerful stones. The Russo Brothers are smart to have this scene take place very early in the movie as it raises the stakes to infinity when you find out that the Gauntlet won’t be so easy to wield and that time may not be so easy to manipulate. 

 

I will stop there in my plot description as I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Just know that Avengers Endgame goes to some wonderfully unexpected places and gives you solid reasoning how we end up where we end up. This is quite a smart movie with many unexpected twists and turns. The writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely wonderfully lay out the story with roadblocks and detours that force the story into unexpected yet logical places. 

 

The issues I had with Avengers Infinity War are pretty much made up for in Avengers Endgame. I was annoyed that Infinity War ended on a few highly predictable and cynical notes. There was no real tension or suspense in the ending of Infinity War as it was easy to predict that Endgame would simply undo all that happened in Infinity War rendering that film a 2 hour and 45 minute anti-climax. I also did not care for the careless fashion in which certain characters were treated by the screenplay that had little room for the many characters. 

 

Somehow, those problems are relatively minor in Endgame. The more than 3 hour runtime has left plenty of room for our main characters and the many side characters whose fates we’ve come to care about over 22 Marvel movies. The best compliment I can give to Avengers Endgame is that even at 3 hours long, the movie never drags, it never feels like 3 hours. I did not check my phone during the entire run of Avengers Endgame because I was engrossed by this movie. 

 

It is remarkable that the Russo Brothers have crafted a story that is satisfying as an end point for the story they’ve helped to tell over 22 movies and a beginning for new stories to be told. We have new Spider-Man, Black Panther and Captain Marvel adventures to look forward to. We have more Guardians of the Galaxy in our future with a whole new look and new Captain America adventures and that is not a spoiler, you will have to see Avengers Endgame to see how that is not a spoiler. 

 

The new Marvel Universe is perhaps even more exciting than what we have seen before. The stars that this franchise has booked are the best of the best and even the heroes who won’t be returning will have a lasting impact via the actions of Avengers Endgame. The trick of Avengers Endgame is intricate and well detailed and its based on a strong and brave approach to storytelling and a group of characters who are irresistibly charming and compelling. 

 

See Avengers Endgame in theaters this weekend. The movie opens at the Wanee Cinemas in downtown Kewanee at 7 Pm on Thursday night.

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Movie Review The Curse of La Llorona

The Curse of La Llorona is another movie under the banner of The Conjuring movie universe. The film was produced by James Wan but not directed by the man who has made this the most underestimated movie franchise going today. I may not be a fan of any of these movies, not even The Conjuring, but there is no denying that The Conjuring Movie Universe is a legit phenomenon. The Nun, The Annabelle movies and now The Curse of La Llorona, go to show the enduring power of ghost stories.

 

The Curse of La Llorona stars Linda Cardellini of Freaks & Geeks fame as Anna, a DCFS worker and recent widow, living in the early 1970’s Los Angeles with her two kids. Anna has been struggling at work and having cases taken from her but when a long term case comes back up for a review, she insists on being the investigator assigned. This will be a fateful decision as she will attempt to save two boys from a manic mother only to have tragedy prove to be unavoidable due to circumstances beyond her control.

 

The mother in question was attempting to save her two sons from the Curse of La Llorona, aka The Curse of the Weeping Woman. In a prologue set in 16th Century Mexico we see a woman in a wedding gown caring for her two sons until something mysterious and strange happens. Soon, one of the boys is alone and wanders until he finds his mother crying while murdering his brother by drowning him in a lake. How this curse lingers from Mexico in the 1600’s to 1970’s Los Angeles is not something the movie cares to explain.

 

After failing to save the two boys from the supposed curse, Anna finds her and her two kids, Chris (Roman Christou) and Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen), the subject of the curse and in desperate need of help. In a cameo, Tony Amendolo portrays Father Perez who was first introduced in Annabelle. Father Perez is the first to step in and offer help but when church protocol slows things down, he offers up a former clergyman, Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz), a man who battles demons in a fashion that even the church finds extreme.

 

That’s the set up for the rest of the plot, such as that plot is. If you aren’t a fan of movies that are merely a series of loud noises leading to creepy people in makeup popping into frame at random moments, The Curse of La Llorona is not the movie for you. There is nothing more to The Curse of La Llorona than a series of jump scares. You could get the same thrills watching a cat run into a room and back out again without warning.

 

The Curse of La Llorona is yet another silly ghost movie where the ghost in question has unlimited powers and yet never bothers to actually complete its goal of killing the people it came to kill. Weirder still is how powerless anyone is to stop La Llorona and how ineffective she is. Her targets are children whom she is easily able to corner, one of them she even has twice, trapped under water, and she is still foiled. How is she foiled? Good question, I was watching the movie and I don’t have that answer.

 

La Llorona throws over chairs and slams doors and throws children into swimming pools and down flights of stairs and yet she never appears able to actually finish what she starts and we have no idea why. The makers of The Curse of La Llorona have so little respect for our wits as audience members that they don’t bother to create a rational set of rules for the character to follow. Sometimes she can be foiled by Anna yelling at her, other times she’s foiled by dirt from sacred ground or holy water. It’s whatever arbitrary device the movie needs to sustain more than 100 minutes of run time.

 

This lack of logic, this lack of care for character motivation sinks pretty much every movie in The Conjuring Movie Universe for me. Never once are we introduced to a demon or ghost character with any motivation for their malevolence. The ghost/demon is evil and that is all the motivation the filmmakers feel is necessary. But from a structural, plot standpoint that is simply wrong. It sets up a scenario where you know that the main characters A, B and C will be fine at least until the end because the runtime dictates it and the supposedly terrifying scenes of the first two acts of the movie are just creepy for the sake of creepy because the payoff can’t come until the end.

 

I will never understand why so many people enjoy a jump scare machine movie like The Curse of La Llorona. It’s almost the same movie every time. The same jump scares, the same lingering camera on windblown curtains, the same slamming doors and overturned chairs and the same creeptastic makeup design for the creatures who pop into frame to pop goes the weasel you into dumping your popcorn.

 

Why does this continue to be fun for you?

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Movie Review Little

Little is a complete mess! This comedic reversal of the dynamic from the seminal 80’s comedy Big, is so undercooked I became more than a little nauseous while watching it. Little is a remarkably sloppy movie that repeatedly muddies what should be a simple notion of a plot. Take protagonist and put them in a strange, fish out of water scenario, in order to learn an important lesson about being a better person through being kinder and more open hearted, realize the error of their ways and all is well in the world. This isn’t rocket science, so why did the makers of Little screw it up so bad?

 

Little stars Regina Hall as Jordan, a tech mogul… I think. Jordan’s business doesn’t make sense. She develops apps but then she has a client for whom she develops apps or games or… this is a good example of the sloppiness I mentioned earlier. Jordan is the boss from hell to her assistant April (Issa Rae) as we learn when April wakes up in the morning to Jordan screaming on the phone about how her slippers are more than 53 inches from her bed forcing her to stretch to reach them. Solid establishment of Jordan’s crazy and part of the lesson the character should learn or would learn if Little were a good movie.

 

The film goes hard after girl power-girlboss puffery and then badly subverts it. Jordan is all about how she did everything on her own and is an independent mogul. And then the script assigns her a client character, an overgrown man-child, who bosses Jordan around and controls her company with his whims. When he decides he may leave for another firm… again this company makes apps, they’re not a marketing firm(?), she is forced to grovel to keep him. The movie spends time establishing Jordan’s independent cred and then immediately upends that persona because the plot needs a pseudo-villain. Why wasn’t Jordan villain enough on her own?

 

Quick question? How is Jordan a great businesswoman and developer if her entire company rides on the whim of one dopey white guy? Where is the empowerment and girlbossery in that? Worse yet, and to really underline the point, the movie doesn’t even need this plot. When we reach the end of the movie, this plot does not matter in any way. This adds nothing to the movie as the whole plot could easily exist without the d-bag white guy character.

 

So, with the company on the line in a dreadful plot twist, we watch Jordan emotionally and physically abuse her staff in a meeting. After the meeting, as the shellshocked subordinates slink away, Jordan is confronted by someone who doesn’t work for her, a little girl with a magic wand. The little girl points her wand at Jordan and wishes for her to be little so the girl could stand up to her on behalf of her put upon staff.

 

The following morning, Jordan once again cannot reach her slippers. She’s been shrunk back to her 12 year old self, an afro-puff wearing, bespectacled, waif, played by Blackish star Marsei Martin. She’s still Jordan, she’s still bullying and arrogant but now in the body of a 12 year old girl. She manages to convince April of what is going on and the convoluted plot then magically introduces Rachel Dratch in a cameo as a DCFS worker who orders that Jordan go to school.

 

The plot is just sort of forced around into Jordan going to her old Junior High School where she was once bullied terribly. The journey is supposedly now about Jordan overcoming the trauma that turned her into an unfeeling monster but the comic driving force of the movie is Martin as mini-Jordan being as bitchy and extreme as adult Jordan, but as a child so where does the lesson come in?

 

It gets worse when Jordan befriends a group of unpopular kids and turns them into status obsessed, instagram addicts and urges them not to be themselves. Now the plot for a time becomes a slobs versus snobs comedy with Jordan eager to turn her ragtag nerd friends into a hot new clique and showing up the school bully, a fellow status obsessed pre-teen, cheerleader. The lesson of this plot is the way to beat a bully is to be a better looking, more popular form of bully.

 

Eventually, we are to assume that Jordan has learned a lesson because she allows herself to have fun with her new friends. She’s still bratty and status obsessed but because the plot wills it, she now cares for and respects April. Issa Rae meanwhile, has all the comic charm in the world and is relegated to the sidelines while the kids plot plays out from a seemingly separate movie. April’s self confidence arc, wanting to move from assistant to exec by creating her own app, is more throwaway nonsense that further muddles whatever business Jordan is running.

 

There is a thoughtlessness that reigns throughout Little. There is no care for any detail. There is no interest in making simple changes to the plot to make it make sense. Instead, the film barrels forward, detouring into simpleminded aspects of overly familiar plots before tumbling back somewhere near the original point of the movie. Little is irksome in how ridiculously clumsy every turn of plot is.

 

Regina Hall and Issa Rae deserve better than this mess of a rehash of Big. These are two exceptionally talented people who could be making incredible things and instead dedicated their time to a movie that completely let them down. It’s not their fault, they did what they could with this nonsense. I blame the filmmakers whose lack of care with the details of plot and their simpleminded dedication to familiar tropes that led them to make an absolute ugly mess of something should have worked.

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Movie Review Hellboy 2019

Do we really need a Hellboy reboot? No, no we do not. But, Hollywood does not appear to care for our opinion on this matter. Hellboy is a character that many people recognize and thus may pay money to see and regardless of the compromised state of the character and the story, his marketability is what truly matters. Hellboy has a Q-rating that rings a bell in marketing meetings among the right demographic of desirable young consumers. That’s why we have a new Hellboy.

 

Stranger Things breakout star, David Harbour, picks up the mantle of Hellboy, for this reboot. In this re-imaging of Hellboy, we join the story with our hero already a member of the Paranormal Bureau of Investigation and working for his father, Professor Bloom (Ian McShane). Hellboy is out on a personal errand as we join his story, he’s traveled to Mexico to locate a friend and fellow agent who has gone missing in the world of Lucha Libre wrestling.

 

This is a clever and colorful way to start the movie but, sadly, it’s all downhill from here. Hellboy finds his friend and is forced to kill him when he becomes a demon bat. Before he dies, the friend warns Hellboy that the end of the world is coming. In a prologue to the story, we meet the Blood Queen (Milla Jovavich). The Blood Queen intended to bring monsters and demons out of the shadows and destroy humanity thousands of years ago before she was stopped by King Arthur and Merlin.

 

Now, The Blood Queen is about to make a comeback. Despite having been beheaded and having her body carved into several pieces and locked inside boxes, The Blood Queen is set to return and only Hellboy and his friends can stop her from destroying humanity. Aiding Hellboy are his long time friend Alice (Sasha Lane), a psychic with ever changing and growing powers, and Major Ben Daimio, an English secret agent who claims to hate monsters like Hellboy while harboring a monstrous secret of his own.

 

Together, reluctantly, they will battle The Blood Queen and several other deathly threats put forward by director Neil Marshall, a man with a known knack for quality monsters. Neil Marshall was the director of one of my favorite monster movies of recent memory, 2005’s The Descent. Where that remarkable talent has gone since then is anyone’s guess. Marshall followed up The Descent with a mediocre Mad Max knock off called Doomsday and has never again looked like the director who crafted The Descent.

 

Hellboy demonstrates some of the craft that Marshall was once known for but it is also lacking in many of the same ways that Marshall’s post-The Descent features are lacking. Much like Doomsday, which cribbed heavily from the worst tropes of the Mad Max movies, Hellboy feels overly familiar with an arc that is indistinguishable from any number of fantasy adventure or superhero-comic book movies. There is little to no invention in this story.

 

David Harbour cuts a giant figure as Hellboy but the choice to direct him as a larger, slower, version of Deadpool is perhaps the films biggest failing. The R-Rating for Hellboy essentially gets second billing to Hellboy himself with the film using the freedom of the R-Rating to attempt to appeal to hardcore comic fans. Unfortunately, Hellboy lacks the skill and intelligence of the makers of Deadpool and there is simply no wit and not nearly enough style to the R-Rated violence in Hellboy as there was in Deadpool.

 

Hellboy doesn’t need an R-Rating. The violence that director Neil Marshall has employed that earns the film that rating never feels organic or necessary. The violence of Hellboy somehow fails to even induce shock and without that pinch of shock it comes of as merely gross. Hellboy comes off as childish and infantile in comparison to other R-Rated heroes such as Logan and Deadpool, and that’s saying something given the level of juvenile in Deadpool 2. In Deadpool, the hardcore violence is delivered with such style and humor that no matter what Deadpool the character does, the film feels mature. Hellboy never achieves anything similar.

 

Hellboy is a kid brother’s version of an R-Rated fantasy comic. It’s all flash and no style. It’s all blood and guts and no character or wit. Hellboy has all the pretension toward something edgy without ever actually becoming edgy or even controversial. Small kids might lose sleep over some of the gory images of Hellboy 2019, but anyone with fully developed sensibilities will find the film witless, charmless and infantile, especially when compared to other R-Rated comic book hero stories.

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Movie Review Pet Cemetery (I refuse to mispell Cemetery)

Jason Clarke, what happened man? I thought we were cool. I loved your work in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes but since then, you just keep letting me down. Winchester? Chappaquiddick? Serenity? Everest? The worst Terminator movie? What’s up man? What are you doing? You’re better than this. It’s clear your agent is a demon from the lower realms. Otherwise, I cannot explain the repeated terrible decisions that have culminated in Pet Cemetery. (Yes, I know the movie misspells ‘Cemetery’ with intent and I don’t care.)

 

Pet Cemetery is an adaptation of a rather weak Stephen King story about, wait for it, you won’t believe it when I tell you, a family in Maine. I know right? A Stephen King movie in Maine, that almost always happens in his stories. This family is made up of Louis (Clarke), a doctor, his stay at home wife and mother of his children, Rachel (Amy Siemetz), daughter Ellie (Jete Lawrence) and a 2 year old son, Gage (Hugo Lavoie).

 

This particular family in Maine has made the mistake of hiring the most sadistic realtor in history. How else to explain selling the family a cottage so close to a busy, semi-truck heavy, highway that its a hazard to be standing near, let alone attempting to cross. And in the backyard? Oh just a gate that leads to the realm of the dead and a creepy pet cemetery where local kids go to bury their pets while inexplicably wearing the kinds of Halloween masks that would give themselves nightmares for days. Seriously, are these kids supposed to be in a cult? No kid does this isn’t desperately mentally ill.

 

So, death highway on one side and the gate between the living and the dead on the other: let’s watch what happens next. John Lithgow, so far beneath his dignity and talent he appears to be attempting to cry for help using the crinkling wrinkles of his bad makeup job as some kind of funky visual code. Lithgow is the idiot who informs his new neighbor about the hell’s gate behind his home after hearing that Ellie’s cat, Church has been hit on the death highway.

 

He does this despite being fully aware of the curse on the hell’s gate. He had a dog as a kid and discovered the terrible power of the woods to bring back the dead in physical form but not in a recognizably happy or emotionally well adjusted form. They don’t come back the same and that’s certainly the case with the once cuddly Church, who returns in a deeply dyspeptic mood. He’s mean and has claws at the ready for everyone in the family.

 

Despite this glaring evidence of awfulness, Louis the utter dimwit, chooses not to put Church back into the actual realm of the dead with humane syringe full of sleepy juice. Nope, he lets the cat go in the woods only to see it return and start the third act. I won’t spoil anything here, there are variations from both the book and the 1989 version of Pet Cemetery that I will allow misguided souls who wish to suffer this movie to discover for themselves.

 

I will say that not a single thing about the third act is nearly as scary as this overly insistent score claims it is. The twists and turns of the third act of Pet Cemetery are a procession of mediocre jump scares, poor decision making at the necessity of an idiot plot and unexplained weirdness. Mom has a plot in the movie that makes so little sense in the movie that I want to write a sonnet on just how ill-considered this subplot is. It’s really a wonder to watch the filmmakers introduce this plot and bail on giving it any kind of rationale.

 

If there is one thing in Pet Cemetery that is remotely effective, it’s the one thing that is all about me and nothing to do with how the movie works. I have a traumatic fear of seeing an Achilles Tendon sliced. It’s a fear that is entirely irrational and all my own. It started in childhood, perhaps with the original Pet Cemetery, and it has been an all consuming, gut-wrenching, personal nightmare ever since. I give the filmmakers here zero credit for tapping that particular well in my mind. They gave away this particular scare in the trailer which gave me ample time to leave the theater until the moment passed.

 

Pet Cemetery is a terrible, borderline unwatchable mediocrity. Honestly, I wish Pet Cemetery were a more conventionally bad movie. Instead, Pet Cemetery is bad in the least interesting ways. The acting is boring, the scares are bland, the direction is uninteresting. It’s all got an air of professional polish but nothing stands out as being very good. It’s bad but not in a bold or original way, it doesn’t take any chances.

 

I hate a number of movies for a number of reasons but I respect bad movies that take big bold swings and misses. That’s interesting, being way off the mark, really missing the boat takes vision and care. The Room is that kind of movie. A visionary bad movie with a singular perspective that happens to be the exact wrong singular perspective. To a lesser extent, Suicide Squad is an example of interesting bad. They had a terrible idea how to make that movie and they stuck to their guns and failed in a spectacular fashion that I can’t help but respect a little.

 

No one who made Pet Cemetery appears to care about what they are doing. There is a distinct workman-like approach to Pet Cemetery, as if everyone were working hard toward building something they had no personal investment in. They could all be building different parts of a couch to be assembled and delivered as much care and personal involvement. It would be a sturdy couch but lumpy and ill-suited to all other decor.

 

That’s a wordy, snarky, jerky, way of saying Pet Cemetery is bad and don’t waste your money on it. As for Jason Clarke, whom I addressed at the start of this review: come back to us man. It’s not too late. I still think you can act. I still see that awesome performance in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes somewhere behind those mostly dead eyes. It’s not too late man, you can pull out the skid. I see you’re moving to television, that’s a really good first step.

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Movie Recommendation Berserk starring Nick Cannon

Berserk is available now for rent via your favorite streaming service. The film was written by-directed by and stars Rhys Wakefield, the menacing teen from The Purge, who has made a pretty good jump from horror movie meme to auteur. Here is my review from this morning's WKEI Morning Show... 

Here's a very positive review of the movie from Geeks.Media: 

 

Movie Review: 'Berserk,' a Solid Debut for Director-Writer-Star Rhys Wakefield

 

and here's the trailer if all of this isn't enough to convince to give Berserk a chance while it is streaming now for rent on your favorite streaming service. 

 

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Movie Review Shazam

Shazam stars Zachary Levy in the story of a boy named Billy Batson. Billy is 15 years old, young Billy is played by Asher Angel, and an orphan. Years earlier, Billy was separated from his mother at a carnival in Philadelphia. She disappeared and young Billy is convinced that he simply needs to find her again so they can be reunited as a family. The reality that his mother never looked for him after that day is something he is eager to overlook.

 

Since he was 4 years old, Billy has been shuttled from several foster homes that he has abandoned to hit the streets searching for his mother. The latest home is one filled with a diverse group of kids that are Billy’s age and younger and who seem open to welcoming him to the family. That can only happen however, once Billy opens himself to his new family and that is part of the plot journey of Shazam.

 

The plot of the movie kicks in when Billy saves his new brother, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) from some school bullies and winds up impressing the wizard known as “Shazam” (Djimon Hounsou) with his bravery. For years, Shazam has kept the spirits of the seven deadly sins locked away while he searched for someone pure of heart to take over his magical powers. He chooses Billy despite his misgivings about Billy’s selfishness in his search for his mother.

 

With the power of Shazam, Billy grows into a more than 6 foot tall, red-suited, white caped, gold-booted, superhero. It takes a while, but eventually, he realizes that he can switch between his superhero persona and his kid persona by saying the name Shazam. This leads to a legitimately charming sequence, overly familiar from just about every superhero debut movie, in which he and Freddy begin to test his superhero powers.

 

We should be put off by this sequence as we’ve seen the same thing in Iron Man, Captain America, Batman, each iteration of the Spider-Man movies, Ant-Man, et cetera. And yet, despite the cliche, these scenes do work in Shazam. I didn’t mind the cliche this time because Zachary Levy and Jack Dylan Grazer are having such a good time with these cliches. The fun they are having doing these scenes is palpable and I had fun because they were having so much fun.

 

It turns out, much to my surprise, that Zachary Levy was perfect for the role of a childlike superhero. My personal bias against Levy for his dimwitted performance on TV’s Chuck and his dreadful role in one of the more recent Chipmunk movies had blinded me to the legitimate talent he has for silliness. That talent for silliness is exactly what Shazam needed to separate it from the otherwise dour and glowering D.C movie universe.

 

D.C has a reputation for being grim, especially under the direction of Zach Snyder.This universe needed something like Shazam to force the universe into a more of a fun place to be. That vibe began with James Wan’s Aquaman, but Shazam is the first real exploration of a comedic place within the D.C universe. It’s a course correction for D.C where director-auteur Snyder seemed to believe that the only way to escape the shadow of Marvel was to go almost absurdly serious.

 

If D.C ever brings the Justice League together again, Shazam will provide a strong leavening force, a lightheartedness that may be the key to bringing this to a place where the Marvel movies have been from the beginning, an entertaining and fun and exciting place. The all or nothing, apocalyptic vibe of the D.C Universe was the worst part of the Superman movies and while Wonder Woman made that tolerable, we needed a movie like Shazam to bring a little light into that darkness.

 

This is rather ironic coming from Swedish born director David F Sandberg whose previous features were the horror movies Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation. He’s not exactly the guy you would expect to bring lighthearted fun to the DCEU but that is exactly what he’s done. Shazam has a lot of laughs, a lot of big laughs. Laughs in which we are more often than not laughing with the movie and not at the movie.

 

That was a major concern for me based off of the trailer for Shazam. I was concerned that I would find the movie pathetic and laugh at things that perhaps were not intended while not laughing in places where laughs were sought. I didn’t laugh much at the film’s trailer which wasn’t embarrassingly bad but was definitely awkward and leaned far too heavily on the immaturity of the character of Shazam.

 

The movie leans heavily on that same immaturity but given a little more room to breathe, Zachary Levy makes it work. And when it is time for the movie take on a modest amount of seriousness in the final act, Levy makes that work as well, he earns enough of the needed weight for us to genuinely care about him and his newfound family and the peril posed by the film’s big bad, played by Mark Strong.

 

Here, unfortunately, is where I must talk about the flaws of Shazam. Mark Strong is unquestionably the weakest part of this movie. His Dr Sivana is remarkably unremarkable. Strong is a fine actor but I didn’t buy into his charisma free, whiny villain. We spend far too much time on his uninteresting backstory and he’s further undone by the underwhelming special effects that make up both the Seven Deadly Sins and the rubbery CGI Strong in the flying scenes.

 

Sivana’s backstory is part of why Shazam’s runtime is way too long. As enjoyable as the movie is, it is terribly bloated at more than 130 minutes. The film repeats a little too much of Billy and Shazam being frightened and incompetent and while the idea of a learning curve for a kid superhero makes sense, the film could have used a device to speed things up so that the middle didn’t sag so much. Losing a few minutes from Sivana’s dull backstory would have been a good first step.

 

Nevertheless, even a bloated runtime and underwhelming villain didn’t prevent me from enjoying Shazam. The film has way too many good laughs and way too much fun for me to dislike it. Shazam is joyously silly and yet still a movie that can fit nicely into the overall DCEU. The dour franchise needed a lighthearted shot in the arm ala Ant-Man in the Marvel Universe, and Shazam is a terrific comedic fit.

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