Review | Secret Headquarters (Paramount+)
“Although it won’t win any prizes for its originality, Secret Headquarters is a perfectly serviceable, fun little adventure that is sure to entertain kids of all ages.”
The kid-centric superhero family story has become a tried and tested formula in recent years. Spy Kids served as the curtain raiser to this genre and in the years that followed, many imitations have emerged from its wake. Some have been fun and original. Others have been utterly abysmal. But despite their varying quality, they always seem to hit the mark with their target audience. The latest adventure to bring this formula to the masses is Secret Headquarters. The movie, headed by Hollywood mainstay Owen Wilson is heading to Paramount+ on August 13th and promises to throw a group of youngsters into the superhero genre. But can the movie succeed where others have failed and deliver a family movie worth staying in for?
Absolutely. Far from being blockbuster material, Secret Headquarters is a perfectly serviceable little timewaster. One that will have kids glued to the screen for 1 hour and 44 minutes. And although the concept is far from original, the movie is a fun excursion into the coming-of-age superhero genre that doesn’t take itself too seriously. But for family entertainment, it ticks all the right boxes.
The story is as basic as they come. Jack Kincaid (Owen Wilson), a devoted family man is endowed with superhuman powers by an alien artificial intelligence and tasked with defending planet earth. However, in his quest to defend the planet from all threats, he neglects his responsibilities as a husband and a father. Ten years later, his resentful teenage son Charlie (Walker Scobell) and a bunch of school friends stumble upon his “Secret Headquarters” and the bounty of technology therein. But after field-testing some of the cool tech, an evil supervillain triangulates their location and infiltrates the lair to claim the technology for his own nefarious purposes.
What follows is a fun little timewaster that pits the supervillain and his horde of evil henchmen against the gang of juvenile wannabe Avengers. And all this while Jack is away on his latest superhero escapade.
After an intense and excitable start, co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman get to work introducing us to the characters that will carry the story forwards. Harnessing the brilliance of the kid-centric adventure movies of the ’80s we are quickly introduced to Charlie Kincaid and his best friend Berger (Keith L. Williams). Charlie is renowned as the class misfit, while Berger effortlessly slips into the stereotypical best friend/sidekick role. And as the teenage hormones begin to fly, we are introduced to Charlie’s long-term love interest Maya (Momona Tamada). With the tried and tested love interest box firmly ticked, Charlie, Berger, Maya, and their popular friend Lizzie (Abby James Witherspoon) stumble upon Jack’s secret lair and the chaos begins.
With its fun set pieces, fast pacing, and frivolous, light-hearted comedy, this will undoubtedly be a hit with the younger generation of superhero fans. Featuring a positive message focussing on family values, Secret Headquarters is a heartfelt outing. Despite its teenage humor, the movie manages to walk a fine line between teenage-centric adventure and harder-edged fare. This is optimized by Michael Peña’s diabolical baddie Argon. The technology tycoon is a ruthless antagonist who will stop at nothing to acquire Jack Kincaid’s superhero technology. And throughout the fast-paced running time, he descends into a full-blown supervillain. Albeit one that cannot be taken too seriously. There are several moments where Peña’s comedic chops come to the fore, but they contradict the depravity of his persona. And the balance can be a little disjointed at times. But when he slips into one of Kincaid’s suits of armor, I dare you not to laugh!
Owen Wilson, on the other hand, is having a blast with this role. Although he takes a backseat for large parts of the movie, when he is on screen his presence is on point. And his rapport with Peña is the stuff of legend. Although some of the jokes don’t quite hit the mark. But for its target audience, it won’t take anything away from the wow factor. But when he’s flying across the screen in a suit of armor plucked from Tony Stark’s b-tech locker, who will be complaining about the cheesy one-liners?
But make no mistake, the stars of this movie are its young cast. Not only do they make for a compelling group, but their dialogue delivery is enough to give their big-time co-stars a run for their money. And their on-screen chemistry is more than enough to overcome the tongue-in-cheek and often cheesy dialogue. Tasked with leading this ragtag group of teens would be enough to challenge any child star. But Walker Scobell takes to it like a duck to water. Despite his youth, he turns a solid performance reminiscent of McKenna Grace’s landmark role in Ghostbusters Afterlife. Albeit on a much smaller scale. And that alone ensures his status as a budding star in the making.
As always, composer Lorne Balfe turns in another pulse-pounding soundtrack. A graduate of Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions; his score for Secret Headquarters channels his mentor’s teachings and delivers on the high notes. And although it doesn’t quite hit the heights of his work on Terminator Genisys, Black Widow, and Mission Impossible, the score hits big where it counts. And with the composer attached to score DC’s Black Adam, Secret Headquarters delivers a taste of what we can expect from Dwayne Johnson’s DC debut.
Although it won’t win any prizes for its originality, Secret Headquarters is a serviceable and fun little adventure that is sure to entertain its target audience. The fun set pieces, fast pacing, and frivolous, light-hearted comedy make for a perfectly acceptable little time waster that never overstays its welcome. However, when compared to the juggernaut that is Marvel Studios, the difference is polarizing. And not in a good way. But for those lazy nights in front of the TV, Secret Headquarters, with its positive messaging about familial values is more than worthy of adding to your watchlist.
If co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman set out to deliver a perfectly fun family adventure they succeeded. And even though it reverts to formula and stays within the default kid-centric superhero parameters too often for my taste, it is a shoo-in to hit the mark with kids of all ages. So strap yourself in, hit play, and jet off on a new adventure with an all-new superhero. You won’t regret it!
Secret Headquarters will release on Paramount+ on Friday, August 12
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!