Coinciding with special advanced screenings courtesy of Fandango, early reviews for Shazam! have begun pouring in, and they're overwhelmingly positive, with critics calling the film "an effortlessly entertaining blend of humor and heart."
Directed by David F. Sandberg from a script by Henry Gayden, Shazam! tells the story of Billy Batson, a troubled 14-year old orphan who is transported to a different realm wherein the ancient wizard Shazam bestows upon him the power to transform into an adult superhero by uttering the word "Shazam!" Teaming up with his foster brother, Batson must use his newfound powers to stop the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana.
While the positive reviews shouldn't come as a surprise, given the film earned some delightful initial reactions following critics screening earlier this month, Shazam! is currently holding the top spot as the best-reviewed film in the DCEU on review aggregators Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, eclipsing 2017's Wonder Woman which ended its run with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93% on 422 reviews and a Metacritic score of 76 on 50 reviews. Shazam! is currently holding a Rotten Tomatoes score of 95% on 40 reviews, with an average rating of 7.88/10 and a score of 79 on Metacritic based on 17 reviews, 16 of which were positive with the last being mixed. Though Wonder Woman may regain its place as the best-reviewed film in the DC Extended Universe with many more reviews still to come for Shazam!, the early critical consensus has Shazam! being one of the best films in the DCEU, and by a significant margin.
Here's a selection of what other critics are saying about the film:
Molly Freeman, Screen Rant: "Shazam! is a different kind of DC movie than those that have been released in recent years, but that derives from Sandberg and Gayden building the film from a character-focused standpoint. Because Shazam has a sillier origin story, it makes sense for the movie to be on the lighter, more humorous side. Though it still has moments of darkness and drama, they are mostly earned by the film, even if the balance isn't always quite right."
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: "Shazam! is basically two movies in one. One with Levi and his wiseass foster brother (a fresh Jack Dylan Grazer), the other with Strong and all his snarling, computer-generated gobbledygook. And they both have the other in a headlock, wrestling for the soul of the story. I loved one, yawned through the other."
Susana Polo, Polygon: "Shazam! embraces the absurd gaggle of elements in Billy Batson’s origin story — subway rides; wizards; a mixture of figures from Christianity, Judaism, and Greek mythology; a hero who wears a marching band cape — and succeeds by never spending a moment acting like anyone would consider them absurd at all. I would argue that it does this in an even more compelling way than Aquaman, despite the fact that Shazam! has to juxtapose its fantastical elements with downtown Philadelphia."
Sean O'Connell, CinemaBlend: "Like Aquaman and Wonder Woman before it, Shazam! benefits tremendously from being allowed to operate outside of the DC Universe, while also acknowledging that it exists alongside movies like Man of Steel and Justice League. In comparison to those efforts, however, Shazam! can actually feel small. The stakes of the plot are relatively low, with Sivana being a threat to our hero but less of a danger to the world at large. Where Aquaman was intentionally epic in scope, Shazam! always maintains the feel of a neighborhood story, for better and for worse."
Owen Gleiberman, Variety: "Shazam!, on the other hand, is just a light, funny, grounded, engagingly unpretentious sleight-of-hand action comedy about a boy in a (super)man’s body. The movie, in other words, is Big in tights. And it’s Zachary Levi who makes that work, in much the same way that Tom Hanks did."
Jim Vejvoda, IGN: "Shazam! is a DC’s most joyful and sweet movie since the days of Christopher Reeve’s Superman, a funny yet earnest coming-of-age story about a boy who learns that, well, with great power comes great responsibility. So obviously, Shazam! doesn’t reinvent the superhero movie, but it’s an undeniably fun time that left me wanting more big-screen adventures with these charming characters."
Brian Truitt, USA Today: "But, really, the high-flying showdowns and the holiday-themed action-packed finale (which is highly satisfying, though it goes on a bit too long) are secondary. Shazam! works because of its emphasis on friendship and family: Mrs. Vasquez has a bumper sticker that reads “I’m a foster mom: What’s your superpower?” that sums up the film's overall warm-hug vibe."
Directed by David F. Sandberg, Shazam! stars Asher Angel as Billy Batson, Zachary Levi as Shazam, Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana, Djimon Hounsou as the ancient wizard Shazam, Grace Fulton as Mary Bromfield, Jack Dylan Grazer as Frederick “Freddy” Freeman, Ian Chen as Eugene Choi, Jovan Armand as Pedro Peña, Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley, Cooper Andrews as Victor Vásquez and Marta Milans as Rosa Vásquez. The film hits theaters April 5.