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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Quick Reviews: 'Shazam! Fury Of The Gods', 'Renfield' | Zachary Levi, Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage

Grace Caroline Currey and Zachary Levi doing superhero poses, Nicholas Cage showing his teeth to Nicholas Hoult
Shazam! Fury Of The Gods (L), Renfield (R)


What's that song now? Oh, yeah. There's no reason to ask that question when even songs can't elevate the material on the page. That is all to say that today we're discussing Shazam! Fury Of The Gods, the superhero comedy sequel to 2019's surprisingly amusing 'Shazam!' that's based on DC's characters, David F. Sandberg returning as a director for it. Billy Batson/Shazam (Zachary Levi in the super suit, Asher Angel as a teen) has been teaming up with his foster family and grown-up superhero team for some time now, consisting of Freddy (Adam Brody and Jack Dylan Grazer), Mary (Grace Caroline Currey), Darla (Meagan Good and Faithe Herman), Eugene (Ross Butler and Ian Chen) and Pedro (D.J. Cotrona and Jovan Armand). They come up against menacing Greek goddesses Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu) and Anthea (Rachel Zegler).

It's honestly rather depressing when a sequel to an unexpected hit isn't able to inspire strong feelings either in any way—interesting at the very least—as it instead feels like a watered-down version of what came before. Sandberg can still clearly implement his style with VFX-heavy action and goofy heroes flying with their goofy capes but that only gets you so far when your film's humour, acting and characterisation are playing it so safe. The script by Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan just lacks personality or consistent and entertaining tone which made the first film work and that's before you get to embarrassing ad reads for a candy or a global threat that feels supersized for inexperienced heroes.

Actors are similarly confused about the stakes, mainly Levi and Angel who are both inhabiting Billy differently, while Zegler seems to be the only one who watched the first movie and tried to match that sweet, yet silly tone. Too bad that it is often lost under the rubble of collapsed bridges and buildings.

Smileys: Rachel Zegler

Frowneys: Screenplay, tone


Adam Brody, Grace Caroline Currey, Zachary Levi, Meagan Good and D.J. Cotrona doing superhero poses
Warner Bros. Pictures


I sincerely hope that all of us go to a movie hoping it won't suck. That is of course unless there are vampires, sparkling or not, in which case you're hopefully prepared for some blood. Comedy-horror extravaganza Renfield, directed by Chris McKay and written by Ryan Ridley, is yet another take on characters from Bram Stoker's novel 'Dracula' as it tries to draw new blood from it. Nicholas Hoult portrays the titular Renfield who's a ''familiar'' of Dracula (Nicolas Cage), tending to his dietary and housekeeping needs while also getting some of his own supernatural powers from consuming bugs. In the modern day New Orleans, Renfield joins a codependency support group which inspires him to try to escape the draining vampiric lifestyle, also leading him to meet traffic cop Rebecca (Awkwafina) and fight a local crime family.

For most of its (delightedly) lean runtime, the film takes its big studio comedy expectations very seriously and often to a quite tragic extent. What the filmmakers' desired result was remains a mystery as the broad comedy presented flatlines almost immediately since Ridley's script is so frighteningly simplified and lacking risks or creativity, McKay's direction barely even trying to inject some energy into it too. Weirdly enough, it is at its most entertaining whenever it decides to go the action comedy route as then McKay and the team have fun with gore, blood and guts which inspires a few pretty nasty kills.

Speaking of having fun, Cage is capable of providing that for Dracula's bloody mayhem, Awkwafina does her best and Hoult shows just enough charisma despite that their characters are basically a collection of studio notes. However, the big standout here is Ben Schwartz (as Tedward, a son in the Lobo crime family) whose energy is just infectious, making you wish that you were watching the much better movie that he's seemingly in. Renfield sadly isn't that as it isn't able to sink its fangs into our bloodstreams in a memorable way.

Smileys: Ben Schwartz

Frowneys: Screenplay, story


Nicolas Cage showing his fangs to Nicholas Hoult who's rocking a cool sweater
Universal Pictures

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