Shazam! Fury of the Gods Review: Bigger doesn't always mean better

Much like the angsty teen hidden inside the superhero, Shazam!: Fury of the Gods feels like it could be great if it applied itself.

The first Shazam! movie wasn't a very tough act to follow. The debut movie of The Big Red Cheese was a fun time at the movies with a lot of heart, and all the inevitable sequel had to do was be more fun and give us more of that heartstring-tugging earnestness. Fury of the Gods doesn't exactly live up to that, but it tries.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and his Shazamily have been doing their superhero thing for the past few years, but with less-than-stellar results (they're dubbed the "Philly Fiascos" by the press due to their inexperienced antics). Billy is more than happy to keep doing this forever, but with his adopted siblings wanting to branch out on their own and a deadline hanging over his head as he ages out of the foster care system, time is running out for him. Adding to their problems is the arrival of the Daughters of Atlas, Hespera (Dame Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), who plan to take revenge on humanity for imprisoning them on their home plane.

Fury of the Gods offers up more of the same from the first Shazam! movie, only said and done much louder. Zachary Levi as the eponymous superhero lays into the meathead jock schtick a tad too thick, and his connection with his teen alter-ego Billy Batson is tenuous at best; you used to get a hint of Asher Angel's vulnerability even as Levi plays his adult form, but in Fury of the Gods, it's all Levi to the point that you forget Angel is also in this movie. The story itself is muddled mess of CGI that needed way more time to gestate than the movie's 2-hour runtime allowed, with Hespera and Kalypso's motivations not becoming compelling enough for me to care. Sadly, Mirren and Liu sleepily slog their way through performances that feel like school theatre stuff that is a waste of their overqualified talents.

Thankfully, anything hovering outside the main plot provided much of the movie's entertainment. Jack Dylan Grazer's Freddie Freeman is a bundle of nerdy charm this time around, and his chemistry with his gorgeous love interest Anthea (played by Rachel Zegler) is cute without being trite. Djimon Hounsou's the Wizard Shazam is a surprising source of much of the movie's laughs and bounces off well with the younger cast. And when not in close proximity to Levi's scenery chewing, the rest of the Shazamily shine in their own little ways in both their kid and superhero counterparts.

Don't get me wrong, Shazam!: Fury of the Gods is a fun time at the movies despite what my misgivings would tell you. But louder and bigger doesn't always mean better. With the DCEU reboot on the horizon, all of this feels moot anyway.

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