Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Shameless, soulless, schlocky sequel

Though I pretty much don’t bother with superhero movies these days, I looked up my review of 2019’s Shazam!, and apparently I liked it. It was about a streetwise teenage orphan (Asher Angel) who is granted superpowers in an adult form (ala “Big”) when he utters this magic word. “Unpretentious, grounded, nicely cast, and a good message about family.” is what I said. So I was a bit sad to see this sequel shed most of its enjoyable meta-humor and succumb to the usual bigger-faster-louder sequelism.

While Zachary Levi’s rapid-fire, kid-in-an-adult’s-body schtick is still amusing, that’s about the only thing in the movie that works. The problem is that it’s way too crowded, with five superheroes (plus their five corresponding orphan alter-egos), two evil gods (Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu, lowering their standards but raising their incomes), a third, not-so-evil god (Rachel Zegler), a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) and a dragon. Plus legions of monsters and an army of unicorns from hell. Lots of battles that you’ve seen before. Many, many times.

It’s bloated and overlong at 2:10, tiresomely plotted, and the “surprise” mid-credits ending is just tacky. It’s one of those perfunctory and soulless movies whose sole purpose is to keep employed Hollywood’s armies of CGI technicians. And not the best ones, either. (130 min)