Chances are fairly high that, at some point in your life, you’ve either played with or watched a LEGO product. It could one of their thousands of playsets depicting everything from medieval periods or NASA shuttle launches to Gotham crime scenes or the landscapes of Middle-earth. For generations of children and adults, LEGO is the product that inspires countless adventures thanks to the innumerable possibilities the little plastic building blocks afford. LEGO adventures go beyond the physical plane as animated television programs, home releases, and theatrical releases have all been created centered on the various properties LEGO develops playsets for, including the most recent adventure LEGO DC SHAZAM! Magic & Monsters from writer Jeremy Adams (Teen Titans GO! Vs Teen Titans) and director Matt Peters (Justice League Dark: Apokolips War). This film takes the story comic book fans know of 13-year old Billy Batson transforming into the heroic Shazam and gives it a LEGO twist, lightening up the danger and inserting far more silliness, but keeping the youthful energy often attributed to Shazam.
New on the hero scene, Shazam (voiced by Sean Astin) quickly develops a reputation with the genteel populace and crime world for being the most polite and positive hero they’ve ever met. After joining the Justice League in saving a farmer’s market being besieged by several villains, Shazam is invited to join the League. However, what the legendary heroes don’t realize is that Shazam is really Billy Batson (voiced by Zach Callison), and Billy’s terrified of revealing his true identity to anyone. But when the Justice League is manipulated into helping the mastermind behind the farmer’s market attack, Billy will have to put his fears aside to become the truest form of his hero self.
If all you’re used to are the DCEU features like 2019’s SHAZAM! or any of LEGO theatricals like The Second Part, then Magic & Monsters is going to seem like an incredible step down at first. The sheen offered by the higher production values immediately obvious in those films is absent here, but that’s largely because the home release films like Magic & Monsters aren’t trying to emulate live-action, but what it’s like to play with LEGOs themselves, to create your own worlds with your own adventures. This cinematic adventure may follow the rules Adams and Peters set forth, but there’s still a lot of imagination present. In Shazam’s first few adventures, there’s a flash & freeze frame which fans of DC Comics will recognize as homages to other notable comic covers. Later, a friendly joke is made about someone beating him to the name Captain Marvel, a reference to the controversy between Marvel Comics and DC Comics over the name of their respective Captain Marvels. Aspects like these bring a lightness and fun to Magic & Monsters that’s more than simple self-awareness or an opportunity for the audience to have a “I get that reference” moment. These things insert a kind of wholesomeness into the adventure which makes them accessible across age groups. Let’s be honest here, the same folks watching Magic & Monsters are the same ones who likely watched 2013’s LEGO DC kick-off flick LEGO Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite all the way up to 2019’s LEGO DC Batman: Family Matters, which first introduced Billy. In the seven years of stories, these LEGO films built up a universe that’s more than family-friendly, it’s a balanced amalgamation of the virtues inherent in the original DC Comics stories and what makes LEGO cross-generational.
Capturing the essence of both allows for some incredible opportunities in storytelling. In this case, it’s a sci-fi romp where a sentient worm named Mister Mind (voiced by Jonny Rees) sends out minions to bring him tons of food due to a mysterious voice (Imari Williams) in his mind guiding his decisions, forcing the Justice League to take action. There’s your adventure story, one which any audience member could build with their own sets and create on their own. What sets Magic & Monsters apart from your personal adventure is the thematic narrative of living your truth that Billy battles for the entire film. This is a message becoming more valuable by the day and one which sometimes audiences need to hear from sources outside themselves especially when the adventures we create so rarely contain a moral or theme as we race to the exciting bits. Adams and Peters create a fine balance that enables the story to stay exciting and fun while pushing Billy to understand that true power comes from trust and that the risks of trust outweigh the risks of getting hurt. Is it lacking a little nuance? Yes. But the ones who don’t quite capture that are likely watching it with parents who can help them process it. Don’t worry, though, Magic & Monsters isn’t just a morality tale, it’s got farm jokes courtesy of Smallville’s own Clark Kent (voiced by Nolan North), Batman’s typical over-preparedness and skepticism (voiced by Troy Baker), Wonder Woman’s expected wisdom and fierceness (voiced by Grey Griffin), and did I mention that the initial villain is a talking worm from Venus? Plus, there’s a cameo from everyone’s favorite Czarnian (voiced by Fred Tatasciore), so don’t turn it off when the credits start.
In essence, Magic & Monsters is a bit of cinematic comfort food.
Be forewarned of one particular issue: there is no substantive special features included with the digital release other than a photo gallery and the physical ones offer only scant offerings. There are no commentary, gag reels, or deleted scenes, but the Blu-ray does include two theatrical trailers, one episode of Teen Titans Go! featuring Shazam and Mister Mind, and two episodes of Unikitty. There is, however, one special bonus for those picking up the physical copy and that’s a limited edition Shazam LEGO minifigure included within the packaging.
LEGO DC: Shazam! Magic & Monsters Blu-ray/DVD Bonus Features:
Teen Titans Go! episode – “Little Elvis” (11:01)
Unikitty! episode – “Spooky Game” (11:21)
Unikitty! episode – “Pool Duel” (11:18)
Available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital beginning June 16th, 2020.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.