TL;DR – It surpasses its generic premise with some absolute joy until it hits a point where it can’t decide on the tone it wants to go for.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid and post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Paramount+ service that viewed this film
Secret Headquarters Review –
If there is one genre that is king at the time of writing, it is the superhero movie. But in a world dominated by one genre, you rarely see films that are not coming from the big two titans of Marvel and DC. Today, we look at a movie that breaks that duopoly, as long as you don’t look too closely at the Iron Man-ish details.
So to set the scene, one night in the backwoods of America, Jack (Owen Wilson) and his wife Lilly (Jesse Williams) were enjoying a fire by their campsite when there was an explosion in the sky. Soon a jet fighter and something else fall out of the sky. Given how remote they are, Jack races to help when he finds a stranded Captain Irons (Jesse Williams) and a crashed UFO. An orb comes out of the ship, scans the two, and picks only Jack to be its guardian before self-destructing. 10-years-later Jack and Lilly are divorced because Jack spends too much time “at work,” almost always ignoring his son Charlie (Walker Scobell). On Charlie’s birthday, Jack flakes out again but unknowingly leaves Charlie alone in his house. When Charlie invites his friends Berger (Keith L. Williams), Maya (Momona Tamada), and Lizzie (Abby James Witherspoon) over, they accidentally stumble on his secret lair because Jack is not just a delinquent father working at an IT company but The Guard, a superhero saving the world from calamities.
What I did like about Secret Headquarters is that it nailed its setup. You have the emotional hook from the start about whether Jack should focus on his family or the millions of people he is saving. You have Argon (Michael Peña), the dudebro head of a private military contractor looking for the artifact to make money from it. While also leaving Charlie and his friends alone in a house with a titular secret headquarters built underneath. It is the perfect storm for the narrative, giving strength to that first act. It was also nice to see the kids act like I probably would have as they immediately started using all the different gadgets. This was a fun sequence and a good exposition dump about where we will spend most of our time.
On this note, the following strength was the acting, from what was generally a strong cast. Michael Peña is having a lot of fun being the moustache-curling-bad-guy, getting to chew all of the scenery in every moment he is on screen. Our lead here is Walker Scobell, who might be the best part of this film, which is great because he was the best part of his debut film, The Adam Project, which came out earlier this year. That kid is going places. Owen Wilson is not as much of the movie as I expected, which was a bit of a surprise, but he does nail the affable, goofy dad energy when he is there.
What holds this film back is the odd tone that starts slipping into the film when the mercenaries arrive at the house and then slowly takes over the film. Is this a goofy kid’s film about taking down bad guys with alien gadgets? Or is this a serious film where people get headshotted out of the blue? The aim was to show that the bad guys were a threat to the kids, but at no time did I feel the kids were in danger. Could you make this kind of tonal dissidence work? Sure. Did they? No, unfortunately not. This meant that the more this tone fractured, the less enjoyment I found with the film.
In the end, do we recommend Secret Headquarters? Well? Look, there are parts of this film I liked, and overall, I would say it is okay. If someone puts it on, I recommend giving it a watch, but it is not a film I would say you should seek out. If you liked Secret Headquarters, I would recommend to you Luca.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Secret Headquarters
Directed by – Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Story by – Christopher L. Yost
Screenplay by – Christopher L. Yost, Josh Koenigsberg, Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Music by – Lorne Balfe
Cinematography by – Larry Fong
Edited by – Gregory Plotkin
Production/Distribution Companies – Paramount Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer Films & Paramount+
Starring – Walker Scobell, Owen Wilson, Keith L. Williams, Momona Tamada, Michael Peña, Jesse Williams, Charles Melton, Abby James Witherspoon, Kezii Curtis, Jessie Mueller, Lucius Baston, DK Metcalf, Dustin Ingram, Levy Tran, Michael Anthony, Lav Luv & Dayna Beilenson
Rating – Australia: PG