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George At 

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Shazam! Fury of the Gods

SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS isn't nearly as bad as you've probably heard, but the lightning does seem muted compared to the first film.

Asher Angel is back as Billy Batson, worried that he is about to age out of the current foster home where he lives with all his friends who he turned into superheroes last time out.

His alter ego Shazam is still perfectly played by Zachary Levi, but I did find myself hoping that the caped hero would begin to find a bit more confidence in himself. Perhaps angst is a mandatory character trait these days.

Shazam and his squad better be confident because they're up against Herpera and Calypso, embodied by the formidable Helen Mirren and the underused Lucy Liu.

They arrive in a strong opening scene in Rome, turning tourists into statues of sand and kicking off their arrival in style in the eternal city.

The film then meanders a bit as it wanders back into angst territory. We meet all the other kids and their alter egos again. Some are memorable, some seem like place holders. Thirty minutes in, I was hoping to get back to those two bad-ass women from another realm.

Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) is good as a new student at Freddy's school that seems to warm up to him pretty quickly. Jack Dylan Grazer is great as Freddy and is the most engaging of the kids when the human versions of our young superheroes are on screen.

The film squanders a lot of time on promising scenes that go nowhere. There's an entire world of floating doors near their hideout. Each of them opens into another dimension, but they're barely explored other than one throwaway reference in an action scene.

When the final face off between our caped heroes and the ancient Daughters of Atlas arrives, things start promisingly with a giant tree that seems to hatch all sorts of underworld creatures at the end of its exposed roots. That novelty soon wears off with yet another giant dragon (at least this one's made of wood to set it apart) and a final battle that goes on a bit too long.

This all looks awful familiar.......

Djimon Hounsou (Amistad) has some very good scenes in his return as the Wizard and Cooper Andrews (Den of Thieves) is funny as the kids adopted Dad.

The special effects are good and there a couple funny lines referencing other films.

The best part of the film is a surprise appearance by a major DC superhero. Those moments bring back the surprises and the fun of the first film.

For me, there should have been more fun & fury and less anxiety on display.

SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS gets a C+, dragged down by messaging that's got a lot clunkier since the enjoyable first film.

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