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Asher Angel as Billy Batson in Shazam!

The following contains some minor SPOILERS for Shazam!

For a long time, comic books were viewed as a medium geared toward kids, but the movies based on them certainly have not been. While most aren’t as mature as Deadpool or Logan, you probably still don’t want to take really little ones to watch their favorite heroes turn to dust in Avengers: Infinity War. That was mentally scarring even for some of the grown-ups.

Part of the appeal of Shazam! as a character is that the hero is actually a young kid who gains superpowers. Even when Shazam looks like Zachary Levi, he's still mentally the same kid. You might think that this means the movie is more accessible for younger children than some of the other recent films of the genre, and while that’s largely true, there are a few elements that parents are going to want to be aware of before taking kids to see this one.

Shazam! is absolutely a movie that many kids can enjoy and it will probably work for a wider cross section of the younger audience than most superhero movies. However, the important distinction is that while Shazam! is largely going to be ok for kids, if you have the impression that Shazam! is for kids, we should clear that up right now.

As with every superhero movie, there is a lot of action that comes from the hero. Shazam and the villain Doctor Sivana fight each other in multiple bombastic, over-the-top sequences. While bodies go through walls and get hit by cars, the action is almost entirely bloodless, as is standard for PG-13 superhero movies. Shazam gets a bit of blood around his nose after being punched in the face by the supervillain, as a way to show the bad guy is actually capable of hurting the otherwise invulnerable hero.

However, while a lot of the action is what you're likely familiar with, the movie isn't without darker, and potentially scarier, elements. The film actually opens with a fairly visceral car wreck. One of the passengers is shown to be seriously injured and their ultimate fate isn't revealed until later in the movie.

In addition, Mark Strong’s villain Doctor Sivana works alongside physical manifestations of the Seven Deadly Sins. They are represented as a collection of monstrous creatures with demonic faces. Young children might be truly terrified by these monsters. The recent character Venom comes to mind as a comparison, probably because one of the monsters has an incredibly long tongue that's meant to creep you out, and many of the creatures have some disturbing teeth as well. This image isn't quite what you get from the Sins, but it's close. If the picture below is too disturbing for your child, then a few parts of Shazam! might be as well.

Venom

However, beyond what the creatures look like, what they do is equally disturbing, The Sins kill an entire conference room full of people at one point. One victim is thrown from a window dozens of stories in the air, and we watch the body go falling out of sight. We see several others get killed by the creatures from the other side of a translucent wall. Their bodes are thrown up against the wall and we hear them screaming. Again, there's no blood, but what's happening to them is being made perfectly clear.

I’m not sure if the way we see these characters die is inherently any more violent than characters in other superhero movies, but the juxtaposition feels far greater because so much of the rest of the film is silly fun. These potentially scary moments feel that much more violent because you didn't see them coming. I could certainly see some kids hiding their faces to avoid seeing some of this. Shazam! director David F. Sandberg compares the scares and the violence to the original Jurassic Park, and that's probably a fair comparison. If the viewer can handle watching a dinosaur eat somebody, as well as the tension of velociraptors stalking children, then they can handle Shazam!'s darker moments.

Beyond the violence, there are a few other elements parents should be aware of. Shazam! is a funny movie, and while most of the humor is perfect for kids, some of that humor, as is often the case with young teenagers, is sexual in nature. During the sequence when Billy Batson is first testing his grown-up body, he uses his new adult look to get by the doorman at a strip club. He comes out with chicken wings, but all his friend Freddy wants to know is what he saw inside. The same location makes a second appearance later in the film as well and several kids end up inside the club. The camera never goes inside the building either time, so we never see anything, but references to what can be seen are certainly made. Freddy takes his time exiting in the latter sequence. Somehow he ended up with some glitter on his face.

Another scene played for laughs sees our two main characters purchase beer at a convenient store, since Zachary Levi clearly looks older than 21. For what it’s worth, both characters take one sip of the beer, spit it out because they think it tastes awful and go back to buy soda, energy drinks and junk food.

Finally, we have the question of language. As a PG-13 movie, Shazam! is allowed to use profanity in a limited fashion and it certainly does. A few characters do use profanity but it is primarily, if not entirely, the adult characters (I don't recall hearing the teen or child characters using words they should not), who tend to use it to punctuate lines of dialogue at highly emotional moments. The movie never uses any F-bombs, although one minor character does break into a profanity laced diatribe near the end of the movie that clearly would include the F-word if you could hear it. Because the scene takes place as part of a television news broadcast inside the movie, everything gets bleeped.

Everybody's kids are different, and so how much any of these issues are actually problems will certainly not be the same across the board. Still, it's best to go in knowing what you're going to get.

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