“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” meanders further in that direction. The first “Shazam!” works as well as it does because it’s mostly focused on two adolescent pipsqueaks, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer), who get sucked into a generic fantasy, with some assistance from their extended family of orphan buddies. “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” mostly sticks to the comic book formula that the first movie poked fun at, despite another strong comedic performance from star Zachary Levi and some sporadic yuks throughout. It’s schtickier and less assured than the first “Shazam!” but these leftovers still reheat well enough.
Billy, Freddy, and their foster family members return to fight the latest vengeful dangling plot thread, this time a trio of vindictive sorceresses called the Daughters of Atlas, led by Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu), who want to avenge their father, Atlas (not in this picture). The identity of the third Daughter is briefly shrouded in mystery.
Billy’s anxieties speak loudest for the “Marvel Family,” as comics fans know them, a convivial group of tweens whom, after yelling the magic word “Shazam,” are granted godlike superpowers. But even the residents of Philadelphia, where most of “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” takes place, don’t seem to know who these kids are. They refer to the Marvels as the “Philly Fiascos,” presumably because you can’t successfully brand a DC Comics character as a Marvel anything. Billy also longs to know what his “superhero name” is; he gets some answers after he unexpectedly reunites with his grumpy guru/mentor, the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou), who somehow survived the events of the first “Shazam!”. Don’t worry if you forgot this last plot point, Billy and Freddy repeatedly joke about it.
That kind of pre-chewed humor is only charming because it’s finessed by the movie’s ensemble cast members, especially the actors who play the punchy, adult-aged demigods that Billy and his family become when they say the magic word. Levi, who plays Billy’s alter-ego Shazam (also known as Captain Marvel), and Adam Brody, who plays “Super Freddy” (AKA Captain Marvel Jr., Elvis’ favorite super-guy), both stand out as adolescents struggling with thankless grown-up feelings and responsibilities. The movie’s adult villains don’t stand out, though Mirren still smirks like a champ.