Shazam! Fury of the Gods movie review: the spell has been broken

 (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

The first Shazam! movie was sweeter than ice-cream. Thanks to a wizard, Philadelphia foster kid Billy Batson turns into a fully grown superhero whenever he says the magic word, “Shazam.” After Billy shares his powers with his five foster siblings, they see off a baddie and now, in the sequel, they face a new challenge.

The obstacle that confronts director David F Sandberg is that the script in the sequel is not as spry as that of the first installment. In what’s technically the 12th movie in the DCEU (DC Extended Universe), despite some spectacular CGI (Harry Potter-ish libraries; alt-unicorns; a city-squishing dragon), the sense of wonder has gone. Oh yeah, and the product placement is shameless. I’m not furious, just disappointed.

Helen Mirren is Greek goddess Hespera, who has beef with the aforementioned wizard (Djimon Hounsou) and, therefore also with Billy (Asher Angel, then Zachary Levi in superhero form). She arrives in Philly, with her sisters, Kalypso and Anthea (Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler), determined to cause havoc. Oh, and get her hands on a magic apple.

 (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Though Mirren seems set up to deliver zingers, sadly not a single funny line passes her lips. At one point, our hero makes a quip about the Fast & Furious series. Big mistake. You instantly picture Mirren in F9, looking tickled pink. If the actress is having fun in Shazam! 2, she hides it well.

Billy’s clan, however, are as endearing as ever. They’re growing up: Mary is worrying about her parents’ finances; Pedro’s almost out of the closet; Eugene, behind closed doors, is exploring X-rated material; Darla’s become a kitten thief. When they collaborate on low-key missions, like dictating a letter to an enchanted pen, the film almost springs to life.

Will there be a threequel? Those looking for clues about where recently appointed chief executives James Gunn and Peter Safran want to take the newly branded “DCU” will fixate on the epilogue, which involves NSA agent Emilia Harcourt (Gunn’s real-life wife, Jennifer Holland).

Disney’s own MCU, of late, has been having issues – such as with the underperfomance Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. But, if the awkward banter between Levi and Holland is anything to do by, the direction for Gunn and his team is still not entirely clear.

DC fans will see this no matter what. My advice, though, is if you want to see a cute, fun, straightforward family movie this month, save your money and wait for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Though Billy’s a top hero, this is not his finest hour.

130mins cert 12A

In cinemas from March 17