LEGO DC Shazam! Magic & Monsters
LEGO DC Shazam! Magic & Monsters is the latest original animated film blending two major brands, following in the path of Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: The Flash, Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Aquaman: Rage of Atlantis, and of course, Lego Batman. (And boy, I’m glad they’ve streamlined the titles.)
This is great family viewing for a lazy afternoon (and aren’t most of them these days?), even if I did drift off a bit during the final big fight. It’s directed by Matt Peters and written by Jeremy Adams. Shazam was created by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker.
Orphan Billy Batson (Zach Callison) is secretly a superhero with similar powers to Superman, but he’s set apart by being super-polite and the “nicest superhero ever”, as he’s tagged after he gets a dog out of a tree. He also stops bank robbers. He’s invited to join the Justice League, consisting of Superman (Nolan North), Batman (Troy Baker), Wonder Woman (Grey Griffin), Flash (James Arnold Taylor), and Green Lantern Jessica Cruz (Cristina Milizia), but things get complicated when he tries to keep his true age a secret.
Then the heroes get turned into kids (which you can’t really tell unless they’re standing next to an “adult” Lego character), which gives Batman and Shazam an excuse to bond and hunt down and rescue the others. There are lots of fights and lessons about found family and trust, as exemplified by secret identities. Sean Astin voices the title hero and does a good job sounding like a kid being an adult hero without being too sappy or goofy. The plot is a nice way to point out the uniqueness of this new hero and how he stands apart from others, as well as establishing his charm. The “just a big kid” approach is why this character can be so much fun to watch.
Although the movie is set in Metropolis — leading to a Daily Planet scene where Perry White tries to name the new hero Captain Marble, only for Jimmy to pipe up “already taken, chief!” — there’s also an early scene with the Penguin. That newsroom scene did mean seeing lots of reporters wandering around with their Lego hands full of notepads and sticks for pencils, which gave everything an old-fashioned flair that worked for this character.
My favorite moments are always when they play up the Lego part, as when Superman swaps his hair when revealing his secret identity (because the hero has the curl and Clark Kent has swept-back hair). When Superman gets turned into a kid, he’s also full of farm metaphors. The rest sound roughly the same. Wonder Woman has the weirdest exclamations, though. They’ve gotten rid of “Sufferin’ Sappho” and replaced it with “by the arm-hairs of Atlas” and “by Poseidon’s pits!” This is not an improvement.
At one point, Batman spells out the acronym and neither he nor Batson know what the Power of Zeus actually is. (We’re all with you.) A few other things that struck me:
Shazam (which is apparently his hero name now) introduces himself to the Justice League but doesn’t change back when he says his name — which the wizard later explains during the origin flashback.
Mister Mind (Greg Ellis) doesn’t work incredibly well as Lego since he’s so small and curvy. He just looks like a piece of shaped plastic.
He’s leading the Monster Society of Evil, which consists of Dr. Sivana, the Dummy, Oom, Jeepers, and a Crocodile Man. To the best of my attention, only the first two are named in the movie, so when my attention wandered, I spent my time googling to figure out who the rest were. It was surprisingly difficult, given that there have been various versions of the MSE, and there aren’t nearly as many fansites as for better-known DC villains. I know kids probably aren’t going to wonder what the beige Hulk-like bad guy’s right name is, but I still think introducing your characters clearly should be basic superhero writing.
You can see bits of these elements in the trailer:
There is a post-credit cameo that is spoiled by the credits, since there are only a few “created by” credits (GL and Flash don’t get any), and one is for a character that only shows up afterwards. Also, no one who animated this movie has apparently seen a moth, since the big bad one looks a lot more like a dragon. Nice Lego design, though.
The only Special Features are three cartoon episodes: Teen Titans Go! “Little Elvis” (which guest-stars Shazam) and Unikitty! “Spoooooky Game” and “Pool Duel” (which are apparently there just to promote this show I didn’t know existed, since those are the first episodes of season 1 and season 2, respectively).
If you buy now, you can likely get one of the copies that comes with a packed-in Lego Shazam minifigure, which is an enjoyable bonus. (The studio provided a review copy.)