Shazam! Sequel Almost Measures up – Shazam! : Fury of the Gods

Shazam! And POOF! Billy Batson turns into a superhero. Batson became Shazam back in 2019, and it was a hit, especially with younger audiences. Sequels are tough, especially when the first film pleasantly engages audiences – creating a solid fan base. Shazam! : Fury of the Gods successfully builds on the original story, but the cleverness and surprise factors don’t measure up to the first.  Director David F. Sandberg, with a script by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan, relies a great deal on CGI, and still, the cast manages to shine.

Batson (Asher Angel), still reeling from the wild events that transformed him into a superhero (Zachary Levi), faces a new challenge in Shazam!: Fury of the Gods. This time, he is not completely alone since he passed on a variety of similar powers to his foster siblings Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Mary (Grace Caroline Currey), Pedro (Jovan Armand), Darla (Faithe Herman), and Eugene (Ian Chen). Now, he and his pals are up against three evil and angry goddesses: Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and Anthea (Rachel Zegler, each bent on revenge. Batson had no idea that he unleashed such mayhem two years prior, during a battle with Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), when he snapped the staff of the ancient Wizard (Djimon Hounsou), who granted him and his family their special capabilities.

Notably, Grazer unwittingly steals the show. Freddy is at the heart of the story, more so than any other character, and his relationship with Billy makes for some great on-screen chemistry. Even the superhero version (played by Adam Brody) brings on the laughs and has some of the best dialogue in the film. Levi manages to breathe a great deal of childish zeal into Shazam, but at times almost too much so. Billy’s incessant, inane babbling does occasionally become grating, but dragons, monsters, and general mayhem make things watchable. Ultimately, all the kids and their hero versions succeed in playing a delightful blend of child and adult- each age group melding with the other.  Lu, Mirren, and Zegler are substantially sinister and wonderfully animated – a real pleasure to watch. Lu, in particular, provides us with a truly wicked antagonist.

Shazam!: Furry of the Gods is visually stunning, even with the overabundance of special effects and computer-generated imagery. The film has some excellent messages about family, friendships, and trust. The kids’ selfless foster parents Rosa (Marta Milans) and Victor Vasquez (Cooper Andrews), have created a warm and wonderful home for their children, and their relationships are sweet and caring. Billy feels more at home than he ever did, but he helicopter-big-bros his siblings, which causes a sub-conflict in addition to the huge global battle they must fight together.

While the sequel doesn’t quite measure up to the wow factor of the first, fans, especially kids, will love it. Parents won’t be disappointed either, although the film’s initial sequence is unnecessarily violent. There is enough clever dialogue and story substance to keep all ages engaged. I am placing four stars up top for this one.

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