My Favorite Scenes From “Shazaam”
My memories of the beloved 90’s Def Jam film Shazaam, starring Sinbad, aren’t exactly vivid, but they’re more lucid and detailed than the generic, hazy commentary taking place on Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook. In fact, the only reason I got into Sinbad’s comedy at the age of 7 was because of this wonderful family film.
I no longer have my VHS copy — my childhood home in the Florida keys was swallowed by a renegade sinkhole and my only copy of the tape along with it — but I’ve got my memory, and you can’t take that from me. Here are some of my favorite moments of this unforgettable pg-13 film, as best as I can remember them.
Nine-year-old best buds, Larry and Steve (played by Danny Tamberelli and and Keenan Thompson, respectively), are wandering through the parking lot of an abandoned tire factory on the edge of their hometown (I believe the film was set in Chicago) when they decide to venture into the factory via a door left mysteriously open. Larry finds an old lamp. He picks up the lamp and examines it.
Steve turns to Larry and says, “Hold up! My Mom watches Nick and Nite, and there’s a show where this guy, Darren, he rubs a lamp and a super hot lady comes out, and like, works for him and stuff. Give it a rub, man!”
Larry shrugs and rubs the lamp, and a dense fog rolls in. A rumble is heard echoing off the walls of the factory. The song “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” by Gang Starr begins playing, and continues to grow louder as the smoke thickens. Larry drops the lamp in fear.
The lamp glows green, then orange, and finally purple. A final burst of acrid smoke billows up from the lamp and descends upon the boys, who are in the throes of a coughing fit.
The smoke clears, and a bleary-eyed Shazaam (Sinbad) emerges from the dissipating swirl of fumes, wearing a dusty white cloak and a purple turban. He is coughing and wheezing. He composes himself.
“Which one of you chubby little mutton-heads woke me from my slumber?” bellows an enraged Shazaam.
The boys stare at the genie in a combination of fear and awe. “He’s not a hot lady, he’s a big scary man!” Larry screams, and the two boys run, but the door to the parking lot suddenly slams shut.
The boys turn to see Shazaam sitting on an old conveyor belt. He smiles, winks, and a lit camel cigarette appears between his index and middle finger.
“Boys, Shazaam is my name and makin’ wishes come true is my game. You got three wishes, and no, you can’t wish for more wishes. I’m especially good at dealing with kids, ya dig? You havin’ trouble in science class? Well ol’ Shazaam here will give your teacher tuberculosis, so you have an easy going permanent sub for the rest of the term!”
Larry and Steve are still in disbelief, and stand speechless before the genie.
Shazaam walks over to the boys, looms like a tree, and says: “The two of you boys got three wishes? ’Cause if not, I’m ‘bout to slime both y’all with ectoplasm and go back to Alpha Centurai.” He blows a cloud of smoke into their faces and disappears. The boys, thinking this has all been a dream, leave the factory and return home.
Shazaam Spoils The Hibachi Birthday Party of the School Bully, Chad Witherspoon (note: Chad is portrayed by early 90’s child star Shaun Weiss, aka Goldberg of Mighty Ducks fame)
Later that night, Larry has a dream where he imagines he is talking to the genie. I wish you were real, Shazaam, Maybe you could beat up Chad Witherspoon so he’d stop messing with me. He’s a mega-jerk! Yesterday at recess, he dumped open a bunch of lunch boxes and ran over our sandwiches with his BMX bike and made us eat ‘em, man!
A voice from Larry’s closet exclaims, “Damn! That’s a low down dirty goon you’re dealin’ with! But the thing is, I can’t beat him up. That’s against the Genie-Va conventions of 1949.” The genie breaks the fourth wall and eyeballs the camera and winks.
Larry snaps awake in bed to see Shazaam exiting the closet. “Tell me what you want. Remember, this is your first wish! Two more after this one. Be forewarned: I can hear all of your thoughts.”
Larry is elated. “Cool! Chad’s birthday is tomorrow and that shitbird didn’t invite me or any of my friends to his party. He’s having it at the big fancy hibachi grill down town. It’s ‘exclusive,’ he always says. Not that I’d wanna go anyway. I just wish I could ruin his day, for once.”
“Don’t you worry little Larry, ol’ Shazaam is always invited — everywhere!” Shazaam vanishes in a puff of smoke and Larry smiles as he rests his head on the pillow.
Scene: Interior: A lavishly decorated Japanese hibachi restaurant with granite countertops and shining steel grills. The Witherspoons and groups of chubby adolescent boys in matching blue polo shirts and khaki cargo shorts are gathered around the largest grill in the dining area. Chad, the fattest of the boys, is sitting directly in the middle.
The hibachi chef pushes his squeaking cart through a pair of swinging doors. The cart is loaded with yum-yum sauce, cups of Asiago peppercorn dressing, and several squeeze bottles of sake, and following behind the chef are a trio of waitresses carrying mushroom onion soup.
After the chef positions his cart by the grill, he turns to face the family, we see it is none other than Shazaam, wearing his world-famous grin. He is dressed in traditional hibachi chef attire, so the family are none the wiser that they’re about to be hoodwinked by a milleniums-old mischievous genie.
“Greetings and salutations, Witherspoon family! It is my pleasure to be your chef for this glorious occasion. Now, where’s the birthday boy?”
Chad boldly raises his hands but is still unhappy because the hibachi is not nearly as luxurious as he imagined. “Me, Me, Me! I’m the birthday boy over here! Can you do any magic tricks?”
“Open up, little man!” Shazaam says, and he draws two squirt bottles from his waist faster than a gunslinger in a western frontier film, and squirts a stream of strong hot sake into Chad’s mouth. Chad signals that he has had his fill, but Shazaam keeps squeezing the squirt bottle harder.
“A young boy’s gotta grow up to be big and strong right? Do the whole bottle, chief!” Shazaam says, and he howls with laughter. The family is in hysterics watching Chad dribble and spill what they think is water all over his face and clothing. Finally, Shazaam stops the stream of sake, and Chad, now dazed, gives two thumbs up.
“Who wants to see a volcano? I bet Chad does!” shouts an exuberant Shazaam. He slices an onion on the grill, and stacks the sliced rings vertically, and douses it with lighter fluid.
Shazaam blows on the flaming tower of onions, and the flames burn off one of Chad’s eyebrows in the process.
The rest of this scene is coming in part two, Next Week, where Chad gets diarrhea from suspiciously prepared egg noodles. (cooked by you know who)