The latest (and lightest) film offering from DC Comics’ extended universe has a particular advantage: it’s a kids’ film, starring kids. The central character, Billy Batson (Asher Angel), is 14; so is his smart-alec foster brother and “manager”, Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer). Billy is granted a tidy collection of magic powers by a wizard (a bewigged and bearded Djimon Hounsou), including strength, super-speed and fingertips filled with lightning. By shouting “Shazam!” he is transformed into an adult in a superhero suit (Zachary Levi, believably and likably hapless), so, like many 14-year-old boys, he uses his new identity to buy beer (which he promptly spits out), saunter into a strip club, and go viral on YouTube. The evil Dr Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) is after Billy’s powers, hell-bent on revenge after being told, as a child, by both his father and the wizard that he was weak.

There’s a sense of Stranger Things camaraderie among Billy and his foster siblings, who are actually fun to spend time with, and the film’s message of found family is a sweet one. Still, its overblown finale overstays its welcome, teeing up the team as mainstays in the inevitable sequel.

 Watch the trailer for Shazam! – video

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting our independent, investigative reporting than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

The Guardian is editorially independent, meaning we set our own agenda. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. No one edits our editor. No one steers our opinion. This is important as it enables us to give a voice to those less heard, challenge the powerful and hold them to account. It’s what makes us different to so many others in the media, at a time when factual, honest reporting is critical.

Every contribution we receive from readers like you, big or small, goes directly into funding our journalism. This support enables us to keep working as we do – but we must maintain and build on it for every year to come. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.