The Daily Stream: Shazam! Is A Joy And One Of The Best Offerings In The DCU

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Shazam!"

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max

The Pitch: The bells are tolling for the end of the current DCU. The new leadership of James Gunn and Peter Safran will likely bring us some beautiful projects in the future, but it appears that many of the things we loved about previous DC films may be things of the past. We do have a sequel to "Shazam!" coming up with Helen Mirren, which is on my list of most anticipated films (Helen. Mirren. In. A. Superhero. Film.), but that may be the end for Zachary Levi as a grown-up Billy Batson (Asher Angel) in his superhero persona. We do not know this for sure, and maybe if we all watch the sequel a dozen times, we'll get more. (Please give us more.) Still, we may not. That said, we still have the first film to watch, and if you haven't seen it yet, I implore you to do so. Our current world is a mess. People are awful, as a general rule. It's very easy to just surrender to it and forget what joy feels like. "Shazam!" gives us a little reminder of what happens when someone stops working for themselves only and does the right thing. It's also the freaking cutest.

Why it's essential viewing

Everyone is looking for a way to shine by themselves in this world of social media. I feel like I'm 1,000 years old when I write things like that, but it's true. I'm guilty of it myself, as most of us are. Sometimes we need a little reminder that while we can be strong apart (as we've had to be so often in the past few years), we're far stronger when we work as a team. 

In the film, we meet Billy Batson, a foster kid whose mom abandoned him at a carnival as a little boy. He keeps getting into trouble, and that doesn't stop, even when he enters a new foster home run by a lovely couple and full of great kids. Billy is a loner and hasn't had any reason to trust anyone for a long time. Underneath, though, he doesn't want to see people suffer. When his new foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is bullied, Billy feels the need to step in, even though they don't get along. It leads him to a wizard (Dijon Hounsou) who grants him powers. When he says, "Shazam!" Billy is transformed into a superhero ... an adult superhero.

Billy does what any kid who turns into an adult would, in the vein of classics like "Big" and "Freaky Friday." He gets goofy with it, tries to buy beer, plays around with his powers, and saves a bus full of people. However, a villain named Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) has powers as well, and he's using them for evil. 

Sharing the power

Most kids would find an adult who can take care of it, but Billy is an adult as Shazam, in the form of Zachary Levi, who was born to play a kid in an adult body. I mean this as the most sincere compliment. The child-like joy he has as an actor is why he was perfect in the lead role in "Chuck." This could just have been a story about a kid with superpowers saving the world, with some fun exploration of a kid's version of what adult life is like. Instead, it's a lesson. Not an "end of an episode of a 'G.I. Joe' cartoon" sort of lesson, but one that actually means something. In the moment, Billy makes a decision to share his powers instead of keeping them all to himself for fun, to show the world that he's a hero, and for the social media likes. He trusts his new family with a part of himself, which makes all the difference. 

Plus, this movie is fun. It's just pure heart and childhood wish fulfillment. I loved some DCU films. I've disliked other ones to varying degrees. (Put your tomatoes back in your grocery cart — I'm not telling you which ones.) I just think "Shazam!" is the best of them. Maybe I'm just getting tired of seeing the darkness of the world reflected in films. I want ones with hope, and that's exactly what this gives us. For two hours, we can forget what's going on outside our doors and remember that there are good people in the world. 

The sequel, "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," will hit theaters on March 17, 2023.