Shazam! Parent Guide
A bouyant, slightly goofy, superhero movie whose uplifting, positive messages are a necessary counterweight to the steady diet of violent action scenes.
Parent Movie Review
The wizard Shazam (Djimon Honsou) is faced with a critical situation. He is the last survivor of the Council of Wizards, sworn to defend all the realms from the Seven Deadly Sins, who in this film look like serpent-tongued demons. Shazam must find a person who is pure of heart to whom he can pass on his powers before he dies. But finding someone who is pure of heart is harder than Shazam expects and he spends 40 years magically transporting unsuspecting candidates to his sanctuary, where all fail his test. Finally, another possible successor winds up in the cave, but 14-year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is nobody’s idea of a hero…
In foster care since he got separated from his mother as a toddler, Billy has bounced from placement to placement, breaking rules as he sees fit in his quest to find his mom. When he absorbs the wizard’s powers, Billy is able to magically turn himself into an adult superhero (played by Zachary Levi) and finds himself torn between running from the responsibility and milking the new abilities for his own benefit. Luckily, Billy has just landed at a new group home, and the exceptional parents (Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews) and five other kids provide the balance Billy needs. It’s this family that provides the beating heart at the center of this engaging superhero movie. And it’s this family that provides the most powerful themes in the movie – messages about the intrinsic human need for family, the yearning for acceptance and connection, and the power of love and loyalty. As an added bonus, this foster family provides a model of harmonious diversity with Latino, Asian, and African American family members. The writers have also included a disabled teen, Freddy (believably portrayed by Jack Dylan Grazer), in the clan. Advocates of greater mainstreaming of the disabled in the media will be particularly gratified that Freddy is no Tiny Tim – he is a fully realized character whose contribution to the plot is based on more than just his disability.
The positive messages that pervade this production are critical as counterweight against its negative content. There is abundant violence throughout, ranging from school bullying up to the murder of family members and holding children hostage. Characters punch, kick, choke, throw, body slam, stab, and shoot each other throughout the film. Although the violence is not gory, it is relentless. Many of the violent scenes also feature the embodied Seven Deadly Sins, who are both terrifying and grotesque. (The long, curling tongues are particularly revolting.) This movie is rated PG-13 and while some older kids and tweens will undoubtedly have a great time at Shazam!, parents will want to be very careful about bringing sensitive kids to this show. They will also want to note a scene where the grown-up version of Billy takes advantage of his adult appearance to buy beer which he shares with Freddy: the two spit it out and declare that it tastes like vomit. The kids also make two brief visits to a strip club (one inadvertently): they leave immediately and no scenes are shot inside.
With all the action, the film moves along fairly quickly – although it is about 10 minutes too long and the fight scenes could have been edited more tightly. But the characters are engaging, with Zachary Levi playing the adult Billy with goofy bemusement and Mark Strong playing Dr. Thaddeus Sivana with the suave menace befitting a supervillain. The film also enjoys plenty of comic relief and maintains a lighthearted, effervescent feel that keeps it from bogging down into just another punch-fest. And the film’s overarching theme – that love and family are the most powerful magic in the world – drives the story to a buoyant conclusion that is sure to put a smile on everyone’s face.Directed by David F. Sandberg. Starring Zachary Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Asher Angel. Running time: 132 minutes. Theatrical release April 5, 2019. Updated April 4, 2019
Watch the trailer for Shazam!
Rating & Content Info
Why is Shazam! rated PG-13? Shazam! is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material
Violence: A child is shown alone in a car careening along a highway. A family is in a car which is struck by another vehicle: the father is thrown from the car and gravely injured. A main character traps police officers in a pawnshop so he can use their computer and then steals a lunch. A child is abandoned by his mother. A woman touches a magic door and screams as her body disintegrates. Demons take possession of a character and a glowing ball enters his head. Kids are bullied at school: older boys kick a disabled boy on the ground. Another character grabs a crutch and hits the bullies with it. Punching and kicking ensue. A wizard disintegrates into dust. Criminals robbing a store repeatedly shoot a main character. A main character throws criminals out of the window. A truck gets dropped from a significant height. A man throws his brother out a skyscraper window. A man sets demons on his father and other people. A main character uses superpowers to steal soft drinks from a vending machine and to extract money from an ATM. A superhero’s recklessness causes a bus to plunge from an overpass: he catches it before it lands. A main character gets hit by a truck. Characters with superpowers have repeated battles where they punch, choke, kick, hit, and throw each other on the ground, from high buildings, and in the air. A man attempts to drown a teenager. A character is stabbed but not killed. A major conflict takes place at a fair: people scream, panic, and run. People are trapped on a ferris wheel which is attacked. A man holds children hostage.
Sexual Content: Characters are shown entering a strip club on two occasions – they are minors even though one is in an adult’s body. They leave quickly and there are no scenes inside the club.
Profanity: A main character makes a sexual hand gesture with both hands. There are just over a dozen profanities in this film – eight scatological curses, three terms of deity, and a smattering of other mild or moderate curses as well as a couple of crude anatomical expressions.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A main character who is a teen in an adult’s body buys beer which he shares with another teen: the two take one swallow and spit it out immediately.
Page last updated April 4, 2019
Shazam! Parents' Guide
The Seven Deadly Sins have a long history in Christian and Western thought. They are pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. Which of these do you think is the most dangerous or destructive? Are there any other sins or character weaknesses you would add to the list? Why?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
The Mighty Odds by Amy Ignatow features a diverse group of middle school students who somehow wind up with unusual powers after a bus crash. Great for tween readers.
Older elementary students and tweens will laugh and learn from Public School Superhero by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. The story features chess nerd and bullying victim, Kenny Wright, who imagines himself as superhero Stainlezz Steel.
If you got a kick out of Freddy’s character in Shazam!, you will likely enjoy John David Anderson’s novel, Sidekicked. This book, which is geared to older kids and tweens, tells the story of a sidekick with super senses who is trying to keep his secret identity from his parents while managing his superhero’s bad habits. Jack D Ferraiolo’s novel Sidekicks tells the story of another sidekick, this one struggling with his role and the behavior of his superhero.
Related home video titles:
Looking for another lighthearted superhero popcorn flick? Check out Thor from the Marvel Comic Universe. An animated feature that combines adoption with supervillains is Despicable Me, which is suitable for family viewing. And The Incredibles tells the tale of an entire family with superpowers.
For another movie featuring foster parents who change kids’ lives, you can turn to Instant Family.
If you enjoy watching Billy adapt to his adult-sized superhero body, you will likely get a kick out of Tom Hanks’ classic, Big. In Freaky Friday, a mother and daughter wind up stuck in each other’s bodies.