Mr. Movie

Mr. Movie: ‘Shazam!’ Presto. A really fun movie; ‘Pet Sematary’ is icky

This image released by Warner Bros. shows Zachary Levi, right, and Jack Dylan Grazer in a scene from "Shazam!"
This image released by Warner Bros. shows Zachary Levi, right, and Jack Dylan Grazer in a scene from "Shazam!" Associated Press

‘Shazam!’

Just say Shazam and — presto — you are instantly zapped into the most fun you’ll have in a movie theater so far this year. In my case — and since this is a film based on a DC comic book character — the belly laughs are a total surprise.

Dull as some of them are, when you take super hero movie humor, action and fun into account, almost any Marvel character film wins a battle with a DC comic character. As we noticed with the redo of Superman, the introduction of the Justice League, and, I know I pretty much stand alone on this one, the drawn out “Wonder Woman,” DC comic book movies suck.

And only describing DC character films as sucking is me being nice. Other adjectives would be better but — for now, and as this week’s other release, “Pet Sematary” clearly shows — it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie.

Billy Batson was abandoned by his mom. Behavioral problems have him shuttled from foster home to foster home. The latest is run by mega-positive Rosa and Victor Vasquez. They also have a house full of mega-enthusiastic, overly nice foster kids. He shares a room with Freddie who is disabled, chatty and totally into super heroes.

Billy could not care less. His mission in life is to find the mother who deserted him and to distance himself as far as possible from people trying to help him.

Meanwhile, an ancient wizard is looking for a replacement to keep the seven deadly sins locked up. His first choice, Thaddeus Sivana, fails and years later becomes the enemy of Billy, who is the wizard’s last — desperate — choice. Unfortunately Billy is just 14. His now nemesis is considerably older.

So their battle is considerably one-sided.

A major positive for “Shazam!” is the acting. Zachary Levi (Fandral in the Thor films, TV’s “Chuck”) and Asher Angel play Billy. Levi is Shazam and Angel plays the boy. Both have most excellent chemistry with Jack Dylan Grazer’s (producer Brian’s nephew) Freddie.

These are great young kid actors but it’s the totally over-the-top Levi that steals the movie. Levi is so good that you totally buy he’s a 14-year old that finds himself in an adult body, and one that contains incredible super powers. In this case, think Tom Hanks in “Big.”

In fact, director David Sandberg (“Annabelle: Creation”) sticks in a fun cameo honoring that film.

As for his movie, “Shazam!” can be broken into three parts. The introduction of the wizard and Thaddeus is the first. Next up is Billy, his issues and how he becomes Shazam. Last is the battle between Shazam and Thaddeus.

What saves this from the fate of the other DC disasters is writers Henry Gayden, who penned the laugh-filled kid adventure “Echo to Earth,” and Darren Lemke. He did the two Goosebumps films, “Turbo,” and “Jack the Giant Slayer.” They anchor this one with a decent story, snappy dialogue and a few very funny sequences.

The intro is a pretty good set up. Billy, his issues, the foster parents and kids, and he and Freddy figuring out Shazam’s super powers comes next. It is a total hoot and is why you want to see “Shazam!.”

Part three has the movie sliding into the usual, and very much predictable, super hero battle.

Sadly — and my only serious complaint — is that, like most super hero movies, and at 2:12, it’s 20-minutes too long. The whole mom thing with Billy could have been left on the editing room floor. It could have been explained with a few lines of dialogue and then you have a perfect 90-minute movie.

Just a minor complaint.

Imagine my surprise at the end of “Shazam!” when I started thinking, other than the first Batman — the one done by Tim Burton and featuring Jack Nicholson’s hilarious ad-libbing as The Joker — this may just be the best of the DC bunch.

Your reaction might be the same.

▪ Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, the AMC Classic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 4 out of 5

Film-PetSematary(3)
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Jeté Laurence in a scene from "Pet Sematary." Kerry Hayes Associated Press

‘Pet Sematary’

Stephen King published the book “Pet Sematary” in 1983. He wrote the screenplay for the 1989 movie. After “Pet Sematary” was published, King said he probably went too far. His wife Tabatha and fellow horror writer and friend, Peter Straub agreed. They said the book was too dark and unenjoyable.

If you don’t know the story, Louis is a doctor. He and his wife Rachel and their two children move to Ludlow, Maine. They unknowingly purchased land that has a pet cemetery — spelled Sematary — on the land. It’s haunted by malevolent spirits.

Bury something there and it returns to life. In this case, “life” is something living that looks like what died but in actuality is more demon than human or animal.

Writers Matt Greenberg (“1408,” the movie version of a King short story) and Jeff Buhler (“The Prodigy”) leave the basic story intact but do make some minor changes. Instead of the two-year old son being killed and mangled by a fast-moving truck, it’s the nine-year old daughter.

I’ve always been a fan of a good horror story but felt King’s book was just ugly. I didn’t like the 1989 movie much better. And today, I find myself agreeing with Tabatha King and Straub.

This story is too dark and is unenjoyable in any form.

How unenjoyable? At this week’s press, and select invitees screening, a lot of people got up and walked out mid-movie. This is just an icky, ugly and very disturbing subject.

I rarely give a movie a zero. This one is the exception. “Pet Sematary” is one of those movies that is so foul, so devoid of anything positive, or close to human, that you want to hurry home and take a shower. I didn’t find anything remotely positive in the book, the first movie or this movie.

Some subjects, whether it be a movie or a book, just ought to stay buried.

▪ Rated R for violence, gore and language. It’s playing at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12, the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 0 out of 5

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