We are thrilled to offer you this guest post by one of our online community moderators, John. He’s an adoptive dad of three girls from foster care. His movie review comes out of a conversation he shared in the group over the weekend release of the new movie by DC, called Shazam!
The DC universe has just released its newest superhero movie, Shazam! There are quite a few strong themes around the foster care system throughout the movie, including the importance of being a good parent. It also touches on the lesson that kids have a responsibility to be the best person they can be regardless of who their parents are. Also depicted is that “family” isn’t just those to whom you are physically related, but also those on whom you can most count to show up.
A Quick Run Through The Storyline of Shazam!
The main character is Billy Batson – a 14-year-old boy who lost his mother early in the movie. Trigger warning: this scene could break a few hearts. His father is in jail. As a result, he goes from foster home to foster home running away often, to try to find his mother. Without giving anything away, the resolution to the storyline about his mother is also heartbreaking but accurate to the experiences of anyone who has dealt with kids in the foster system.
Billy gets his super-powers from a wizard who is looking for someone pure of heart. He has no luck, and Billy is the last resort for him. Billy himself admits that he is not the ideal choice. What follows is a series of the scenes you’ve probably already seen in the movie trailers – all the things that happen when a 14-year-old is suddenly “an adult.” He tries to do all the ‘adult’ stuff like buying beer (handled fairly appropriately), going to a strip club (spoiler, we never see the inside, thankfully, as the humor of the situation works without it), and using his powers to make money so he can “do” things.
In other words, he’s not very heroic at first. All of this happens with his foster brother, Freddie, at his side. Freddie has a physical disability which is mentioned but not at all over-emphasized — it appears as a plot point in a good way.
The foster kids with whom Billy lives for the majority of the plot all have unique personalities – there is bound to be at least one character with whom your child can closely identify or relate. They range from the “ultra responsible” type to the one who prefers not to talk to the one who is “always” talking, from one who can show no affection to another who is overly affectionate. (As a side note, if there’s anyone in the audience with you who doesn’t love “Darla,” I’d be worried about them.)
The film includes a lot of the superpower fantasy stuff that is vital to the genre, of course. But the movie also shows the strong family ties that these kids have forged. I suspect the next film will deal with kids leaving the close-knit family that they’ve made for themselves, as they hinted at throughout the movie. They never thoroughly addressed it beyond Billy’s birth mother storyline, though.
Potential Triggers You Might Want to Consider
If you see this with your adoptive or foster kids, specific parts of this movie could trigger a lot of big feelings and thoughts. The ongoing birth-parent storyline highlights the creations of a fantasy family that are common to many adopted and foster children, namely the idea that “if I just could be with my mom everything will be good again.” This storyline dismantles those fantasies, so that might also be a trigger for your children.
Another trigger could be the idea that family is who you make it or where ever you build it. That sentiment might also resonate with your child. But either way, it’s presented and should be considered.
Some kids might feel triggered by the notion that Billy is not a good kid early on (i.e., running away, using his new powers to make money) but becomes a real hero by the end of the movie. Again, this might be helpful for our kids who may think of themselves as the ‘bad kid.’
Be aware of the triggers and be ready for them.
My Personal Opinion Of The Movie, Shazam!
As a parent of 3 whom I adopted from foster care, and a comic book fan, I loved the movie. I did tear up at a couple of points thinking about what my kids went through before joining our family and what they still probably feel as they grow and process their stories.
If you do take your kids – adopted, foster, or bio – to see this movie, be ready for the questions you have to field about things like Billy’s mother, “does beer taste bad, Dad?” and “what was in that place (the strip club)?” I can’t tell you what to answer, but you have now been warned to be ready!
One More Thing
Hang in there for the rolling of the credits, if you are a DC superhero fan like I am. The credits have 2 “extra” scenes you won’t want to miss. The first extra gives away the identity of the villain for the next movie (which true comic book fans will have figured out well in advance). The second scene at the very end of the credits is a silly one of Billy figuring out certain powers – a la a big part of the movie which I won’t spoil for you. Neither scene is necessary, but both are fun.
Thank you, John, for sharing your thoughts and responses to the new movie, Shazam!
What do you think? Will you be taking your adopted or foster kids to see the movie? We’d love to hear from you in the comments if you’ve seen it already!