Review: ‘Shazam!’ finds lightning in a bottle with Zachary Levi’s family-friendly superhero

Superheroes are such a big deal in pop culture these days, it’s easy to forget that these larger-than-life figures who sock bullies in the face and (mostly) walk a righteous path also have an innate appeal for children.

The latest DC Comics film “Shazam!” (★★★ out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters nationwide April 5) leans into that wish-fulfillment fantasy with super-duper strength. And while genre tropes are very much in play, there’s a certain magic in this “Big”-meets-Superman affair where an ancient wizard transforms a troubled teenager into a buff, god-like guy with a light-up suit.

A supersized Billy Batson (Zachary Levi) tests his might as his foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) looks on in “Shazam!” (Photo: STEVE WILKIE/DC COMICS)

Director David F. Sandberg’s heroic tale takes place in a world where Superman and Batman save the day on a regular basis, though they can’t help 14-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) with his issues. After losing his single mother in a carnival crowd when he was very young and bouncing around the foster system, Billy is a nomadic soul searching for a real home – as well as the truth about what happened to his mom – when he’s taken in by Philadelphia couple Victor (Cooper Andrews) and Rosa Vasquez (Marta Milans).

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