Friday, April 5, 2019

Family friendlier 'Shazam!' takes on unsettled family from 'Pet Sematary'

So, if you have a movie choice to make this weekend between another superhero extravaganza called "Shazam!" and the purposely misspelled Stephen King-based remake "Pet Sematary," take a look at the former and then thank me later for avoiding any unnecessary nightmares.

Our hero Levi and best pal Grazer inspire lots of laughs in "Shazam!"
The truth is, the DC Justice League version of Captain Marvel (amusingly explained here) is a lot of fun, mostly family friendly (except for a monster biting off a guy's head), and just a tad too long to earn an extra 50 cents in yours truly's money-tinged ratings system.

That fun part includes a grandly diverse and profoundly human foster family, shepherded by a mom and dad warmly played by Marta Millens and Cooper Andrews. Meanwhile, the head-hungry monster is actually one in a septet of beasts representing each of the Seven Deadly Sins and conjured up by an alleged "good wizard" (Djimon Honsou) during a couple of lengthy sequence of supernatural hokum.

In fact, along with the movie's energetic action finale, which features a nice twist, the Honsou scenes could have used some ediiting, too, even if they ultimately do produce both the title hero (an agreeable Zachary Levi) and the villain of the piece (Mark Strong). 

Regardless, the lightheartedness of of it all dominates much of its 132-minute running time, especially in the connection between Shazam, his comically inclined young friend (Jack Dylan Grazer), and an equally vital eighth-grader (Asher Angel), whose importance will not be given away here.

Rated "PG-13": intense sequences of action, language and suggestive material; 2:12; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

On the other hand, there's "Pet Sematary," which plays as somber as a funeral procession in this second screen depiction of the Stephen King novel that even the "King of Horror" himself once admitted might have been too dark to publish.

Obviously, then, you'll find little humor here, unless you count a discussion about a pivotal and creepy cat named after Winston Churchill. Of course, the irony arrives only if you recall that John Lithgow, starring as one of the characters taking part in said discussion, won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Churchill in "The Crown," the multi-honored Netflix series.

Here, Lithgow plays the all-knowing and somewhat mysterious neighbor of a Maine couple recently transplanted from Boston so they can spend more time with their two young children. Father (Jason Clarke) is a doctor, and mother (Amy Seimetz) simply can't get over her guilt involving the death of a sickly sister.

The titular animal burial ground in their backyard, some unfathomable moments of sorrow, and huge, ever-speeding tanker trucks, whose constant presence is not explained here as adequately as in the novel, also play key roles in a film that's more disturbing than genuinely engrossing.

Rated "R": horror violence, bloody images and some language; 1:41; $ $ $ out of $5

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