on July 19, 1996 by Dwayne E. Leslie
   Shaquille O'Neal (new L.A. Lakers center and "Blue Chips" star) this time out plays Kazaam, a 3,000-year-old genie that lives in a beat-up boombox. His new master, Max ( "Free Willy 2's " Francis Capra), is given three wishes to make his life better. With people using the animated "Aladdin" for comparison, "Kazaam" will not live up to expectations; 81 digital effects by Rhythm & Hues fail to leave older members of the audience mesmerized. The visual trickery might delight children, but "Kazaam" will leave even them wishing for more of the genie's playful trickery to make up for lackluster comedy in the story.
   "Kazaam" spends more time trying to teach morals than trying to entertain. Instead of being a buddy comedy, the film focuses more on Kazaam and Max's separate problems and dreams. Max must accept that he's going to have a new father and to deal with bullies at school; Kazaam wants to be a rapper, but the singing material created for him is all wrong. The real-life Shaq has his own record label, T.W.Is M., and his first album went platinum; but in "Kazaam" the genie has no timing, the songs play like rap parodies, and he sounds good only when getting vocal support from other rappers.
   Because there are few family films in the current marketplace, "Kazaam" could benefit from a lack of competition. Plus, there's Shaq's popularity, and the younger crowd is sure to be entertained by the genie's use of a special form of martial arts called "Shaq Fu." Still, to survive for long in the heavy mid-summer season, "Kazaam" will have to use up some of his own wishes. Starring Shaquille O'Neal and Francis Capra. Directed by Paul M. Glaser. Written by Christian Ford and Roger Soffer. Produced by Scott Kroopf, Paul M. Glaser and Bob Engelman. A Buena Vista release. Comedy. Rated PG for action violence and language. Running time: 95 min
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