Even before watching “Shazam!,” the new DC superhero movie starring Zachary Levi, you already know it won’t take itself too seriously. Why? There’s an exclamation point in the title. Such marquee razzmatazz is usually reserved for singing and dancing — “Oklahoma!,” “Hello, Dolly!,” “Mamma Mia!” — not world-saving.
There aren’t any chorus lines in “Shazam!” (phew), but there is a refreshingly upbeat spirit that arrives like Evian in the middle of the Sahara. With hero flicks getting as weighty and self-important as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” it’s a relief to watch one let its hair down. These gloomy films could use more exclamation points.
Much of the youthful energy of “Shazam!” comes courtesy of real youth. Sixteen-year-old Asher Angel plays angsty Billy Batson, an orphaned teen whose life changes big-time when a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) in search of a champion summons him to a magic cave and gives him the ability to morph into a full-grown hero (played by Levi).
All Billy’s gotta do is say “Shazam,” and he becomes a mega-powerful adult charged with protecting the world against the Seven Deadly Sins — here envisioned as the gargoyles from “Ghostbusters.” The film toggles back and forth between its two younger and older stars.