* * ½

(Silly, sloppy, superhero flick)

Shazam! can't make up its mind whether it wants to be a dark story or a silly comedy. It succeeds at neither.

Asher Angel plays Billy Batson, a 14-year-old foster child who visits a very dark place and is given super powers allowing him to change into an adult superhero with a teenage mind just by saying "Shazam.” Billy must contend with Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), a rival for the powers. Both have sad childhood stories that set the dark tone for the silliness that follows.

Billy ends up in a multi-cultural foster family where he is befriended by Freddy, a younger boy with a physical handicap. Zachary Levi plays Billy's older self as a young boy in an adult body, as the movie gets sillier and sillier.

Shazam takes care of his foster brother's bullies, saves a runaway bus, gets a big head and starts showing off in Philadelphia parks, accepting money for making electricity flow from his fingers.

There's lessons for kids about the importance of family, as Billy tries desperately to find his real mother and slowly learning that "family" has another meaning.

The ending goes on forever as his foster family siblings join him in fighting the evil Thaddeus and his monsters. For those who stay around for the credits, you'll get a taste of more to come. One "Shazam" was enough for me.

Rated PG-13, with some profanity and many dark, scary moments.


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