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SHAZAM!: FURY OF THE GODS: 3 STARS. “the best elements of the first film are present.”

In 2019’s “Shazam!,” teenager Billy Batson’s (Asher Angel) life took a metaphysical turn when an ancient wizard Djimon Hounsou), protector of the realms from the Seven Deadly Sins and keeper of the Rock of Eternity, plucked him from obscurity to transform into superhero Shazam, the adult champion of the world.

In the new film, “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods,” set two years after the events of the first movie, Billy still grapples with his superhero alter ego (Zachary Levi). “I’m an idiot,” he says. “I don’t deserve these powers, if I’m being honest. Like, what am I even contributing? There’s already a superhero with a red suit with a lightening bolt on it. Aquaman is literally huge, and he’s so manly. And Batman, he’s so cool. I feel like a fraud.”

This new adventure sees Batson, and his foster siblings, who also transform into superheroes by saying the magic word “Shazam!,” pitted against their most ferocious foe yet, the Daughters of Atlas.

“We are at war,” says Hespera (Helen Mirren). “We will annihilate everything. The champions of this realm can do nothing to stop us.”

The Daughters of Atlas want to strip the Shazam gang of their powers but as they do that the fate of the world hangs in the balance. “You are very menacing,” Shazam says to Hespera. “I just want you to know that.”

At its heart “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods” is a coming-of-age story. Billy begins the movie insecure, a victim of imposter syndrome. Unfortunately, as his confidence grows, so does the movie’s tendency to clutter up the screen with busy CGI, heaping helpings of mythology and not-so-subtle product placement. (They even manage to find a way to work in the Skittles “taste the rainbow” slogan.)

The best elements of the first film are present. The focus on family—finding your logical, if not biological family—the humour and Levy’s manchild performance as the title character, provide the film’s heart but the effort to make the sequel bigger-and-better overshadow the more organic, pleasing parts of the story.

It is a blast to see Helen Mirren channel her inner Shakespearean villain as Hespera, and some of the Ray Harryhausen-inspired creatures have a cool, “Famous Monsters of Filmland” retro appeal but, in general, when it comes to “Shazam!: Fury of the Gods,” bigger is not better.

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