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Kazaam (1996)


The film Shazaam with Sinbad as a genie does not exist. Kazaam features Shaquille O’Neal as a genie. The film was released four years after Aladdin and just a couple of years into Shaq’s professional career. He was the biggest NBA star, literally. He was probably surrounded by people determined to make money off him and as a 24-year-old was still figuring out what he should and should not do with his newfound fame.

Francis Capra, of Veronica Mars fame, stars opposite Shaq as Max Conner. He is the child of divorce and never knew his biological father. Ally Walker plays his mom Alice while James Acheson plays his father Nick. Nick is in the hip-hop industry making bootleg films of concerts for a middle eastern/north African organized crime boss. The boss’s ethnicity means that he is familiar with Genies in this universe.

This film is widely panned, and I think a little undeservedly so. I went in with low expectations and enjoyed watching it. Kazaam only speaks in rhyme and the film calls it out. The dialog is stilted as a result and each scene Shaq speaks in is a bit rough. It is only made worse when Shaq tries to rap alongside Spinderella from Salt-N-Pepa. There are two separate hip-hop shows in the film, so there is a lot of Shaq’s bad rapping. He is not the only sports player from this era who thought he could rap and had enablers; does anyone remember Prime Time?

Disney Plus means that we all have easy access to a plethora of bad films from our childhood. Some are worth a revisit and others can be skipped. I don’t regret the time I spent with Kazaam, but it is easily going to slip my mind. It also holds a special place in my partner’s life because the exterior school shots were the very middle school she attended, perhaps she is even one of the kids playing outside the school.

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