‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ review: 0 stars for a teenage train wreck

Just seven months after the world saw “Black Adam” and was fully convinced that the movie was as low as DC Comics could possibly go, here comes “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” — and the limbo stick of awfulness descends further.

We’re talking about a film in which the sentence “The most powerful thing about you . . . is you!” is uttered twice.

A film with a character named Steve, who is an all-knowing, enchanted pen.

movie review

Zero stars. Running time: 130 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of action and violence, and language). In theaters.

A film in which the villains cut off the entire city of Philadelphia from the world using a magical force field — a la Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” — and nobody seems to mind, including Philadelphians!

What happened? The original “Shazam!” was a cute, modest, coming-of-age movie with an energetic lead performance from Zachary Levi.

But there is not one halfway decent part of “Fury of the Gods,” and even viewers who are pathologically forgiving of the worst of comic-book movies — and the decline is swift — will find themselves asking why the wise ancient wizard from the first film is now calling an Uber. Or if Philly is really being saved by a unicorn that eats Skittles.

And our most pressing question of all: Do we need to start a GoFundMe page for Helen Mirren?

At the end of the 2019 original — which saw teenage orphan Billy Batson become said wizard’s (Djimon Hounsou, jokier than before) “champion” and have the ability to turn into an adult superhero (Levi) anytime he yells “Shazam!” — Billy’s five foster-kid siblings also all received extraordinary powers of their own. 

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Darla (Meagan Good), Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) and Pedro (D.J. Cotrona) are nicknamed "The Philadelphia Fiascos."
Darla (Meagan Good), Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) and Pedro (D.J. Cotrona) are dubbed “The Philadelphia Fiascos.”

Now, they have formed a crime-fighting squad that’s not very good at their job. The local newspapers nickname them “The Philadelphia Fiascos.” 

They’re also still leading their confusing hormonal lives at school, and Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer, an extremely likable and funny actor “Shazam” doesn’t deserve) starts a bumbling flirtation with the mysterious new girl, Ann (Rachel Zegler from “West Side Story”).  

But those misfit screw-ups have to prove their mettle when the Daughters of Atlas, goddesses Hespera (Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), steal a dangerous wooden staff (not to mention the museum scene from “Black Panther”) and come to Earth looking to reclaim the powers the wizard stole from their papa eons ago. 

Rachel Zegler, left, plays the mysterious new girl at school who flirts with Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer)
Rachel Zegler (left) plays the mysterious new girl at school who flirts with Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer).

The Atlas ladies are entirely new and were never part of any DC comics before. That makes sense as they are poorly developed and speak mostly in jokey buttons.

When the sisters plant a mythical tree in the City of Brotherly Love, and its giant roots suffocate the metropolis, “Fury of the Gods” relocates to what appears to be a Rainforest Cafe for the final 20 minutes.

I couldn’t help but be reminded, while watching Mirren be very serious in a silly Greek god outfit staring at an overgrown, unicorn-infested Philadelphia, that the actress won the Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth II 16 years ago this month. Now, she’s slummin’ it in “Xena” cosplay.

Whenever teenage Billy Batson (Zachary Levi)yells "Shazam!" he becomes an adult crime-fighting machine.
Whenever teenage Billy Batson yells “Shazam!,” he becomes an adult crime-fighting machine (Zachary Levi).

Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan’s script is a shambles, even for a genre that is mostly exposition and one-liners. 

Why does a 17-year-old Billy know Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” and crack Borscht Belt sex jokes such as “That was really satisfying? How was it for you?” during fight scenes?

Then, in the heroes’ cave lair, Billy complains that his superfriends are starting to go off and do their own thing, as teens are wont to do. So, his pal Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) says to him, “Just because Freddy wants to fly solo for 10 minutes doesn’t mean he’s gonna leave you like your mom.” This is the writing equivalent of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Jack Dylan Grazer (left) and Asher Angel play secret superheroes in "Shazam! Fury of the Gods."
Jack Dylan Grazer (left) and Asher Angel play secret superheroes in “Shazam! Fury of the Gods.”

And with sub-par material, Levi pretending to be a kid and naively shouting and pouting has turned grating.

The ending of “Fury of the Gods,” directed by David F. Sandberg, is open-ended. You could interpret it either as connecting with the wider DC Extended Universe, or wrapping things up with a smile while DC aggressively attempts to reconfigure and course-correct its flailing film series. 

My guess is that we won’t be hearing Billy yell “Shazam!” ever again.  

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