I love it when I manage to get watch movies way early — especially good ones. Let’s talk about Shazam!

Starting with the good, this movie is a lot of fun with loads of heart and a mesmerizing leading man. It takes a while to get going, but once Zachary Levi shows up, you’ll want him on the screen the entire time. He’s so magnetic in this role, that whenever there’s a scene without him (or with his child counterpart), the movie feels like it’s moving in slow motion.

Along with Levi, the acting in general is top-notch especially from the actors playing the main character’s foster family. This movie does a great job of throwing a whole lot characters at you and then actually getting you to care about them enough for the plot to be meaningful; an impressive accomplishment for the genre.

So much heart. Shazam’s human alter-ego, Billy Batson, is a foster kid and a big part of the movie deals with this in a super-effective, touching way. I’m not a foster kid, but I can imagine how this movie could mean a lot to kids in that situation, as I’m sure they’re not accustomed to seeing themselves in mainstream media.

The film can also be incredibly funny, even though you might have seen most of the jokes in the trailers by now. Unfortunately, any time the movie shifts to the villain, it becomes dour and dark. Certainly, the villain shouldn’t be rainbows and sunshine, but many of those scenes are a tonal 180 degrees from the rest of the movie, which can be a bit jarring.

This tendency to go dark when the villains are on the screen provides perhaps the movie’s biggest flaw — this is a movie with a kid’s message that’s way too violent and dark for kids! It could have been toned down significantly and been a wonderful recommendation for 8+, but as it stands, it really earned its PG-13 rating. Some younger than 13 may be able to stomach it, but here’s a vague list of what to expect: beheadings, vaporization, violent defenestration, disturbing parent-child relationships, and pretty terrifying imagery.

If you’re an adult, though, I think you’ll really enjoy the heartfelt humor and wide-eyed wonder of Shazam! It feels unique and different in our current superhero climate, especially for DC, and even manages to capture a little bit of optimism from decades past. I’d love to see Shazam team up with the brooding lineup of heroes DC has going right now. He might get them to lighten up.

You’ve got two weeks before the official release, but you can feel safe buying your tickets now. Even though it can be tonally inconsistent, it’s still a great movie that’ll leave you happy.

Rating: 4.5 stars
Should you watch it? Yes!
Should you take your kids? Maybe, but read my warnings above
What you should watch first: Nothing, though it is set in the current Batman/Superman universe, so there are some light references

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