“Secret Headquarters (2022).” The superhero genre is still more action-packed than any these days. The downside to this is that it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by all the offers. Superhero fatigue is very real. However, there is also a plus, and that is that the definition of what a superhero project can be has expanded. For example, if the gritty and violent nature of The Boys is too much for someone, they can instead turn to the more cheerful worlds of the MCU or the new Paramount+ Secret Headquarters original movie.
In some ways, the film, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, is less of a traditional superhero story and more of a children’s tale of wish-fulfillment, though it still ends with plenty of CGI spectacle. With the help of an excellent young cast, Secret Headquarters is a fun adventure for all ages, even if some elements end up feeling superficial. “Secret Headquarters.”
Secret Headquarters: Movie Review
14-year-old Charlie Kincaid (Walker Scobell) has a difficult relationship with his father Jack (Owen Wilson). Jack is constantly picking on Charlie and doesn’t even realize that his son is left-handed. Charlie assumes that Jack is just a deadbeat dad, but the truth is more complicated: Jack is actually the world-renowned Guardian superhero, chosen years ago by an alien artifact to be Earth’s protector.
When Charlie and his friends first stumble upon their father’s secret, it seems like the best discovery ever as the high school students get creative with his advanced technology. However, the party soon comes to a screeching halt when a team of villains (led by Michael Peña’s corporate villain Argon) searches for the source of Jack’s powers, forcing Charlie and his friends to stand up and save the day.
Joost and Schulman co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher Yost and Josh Koenigsberg based on Yost’s story. The concept of a child learning the wonderful truth about their boring parents isn’t exactly new (Spy Kids is just the tip of the iceberg), but HQ is still having fun with the idea. The film makes quick work of establishing Charlie’s dissatisfaction with Jack, and the audience can probably guess how their relationship will develop by the end.
Secret HQ could be defined as predictable, but Joost and Schulman manage to inject enough childlike wonder into the action that it’s easy to overlook some of its flaws. When Charlie and his friends bring Jack’s gadgets to school, the directors find plenty of humor in the silly ways they use alien technology. Overall, Secret Headquarters is really fun. Not every joke can land, but the ensemble has great comedic timing.
Secret Command’s cracks begin to show if one looks past the gleeful antics and cast. Joost and Schulman aren’t too interested in digging into the nitty-gritty of Jack’s alien setup, nor do they spend much time developing the villains. Jesse Williams, who plays a pilot desperate to uncover the truth about the Watch’s existence, is the only one given anything resembling an actual arc, but it’s relatively shallow in the grand scheme of things.
Peña seems to be having fun as the unscrupulous Argon, but his character is overall very flat. As for the alien entity that gave Jack his heroic purpose, little is said about why he was chosen or how the alien object came to crash on Earth. One could argue that HQ doesn’t need to go too deep into these things, but it could make the film even more special.
The most important aspect of Secret Headquarters, however, is its young cast, who perform brilliantly. Scobell, who already proved his skills earlier this year with The Adam Project, continues to show why he would make a great Percy Jackson. Balancing witty remarks and quieter vulnerability, Scobell really makes Charlie someone to root for. Keith L.
Williams, Momona Tamada, and Abby James Witherspoon fill the key roles of Charlie’s friends, and each performer brings something unique to their character. Williams is particularly funny, Tamada exudes a quiet ferocity, and Witherspoon reveals that there are more sides to her character than first appear. The adult cast, made up of reliable actors, is expectedly solid. It has to be said that there is some fun that comes from MCU vets like Wilson and Peña playing very different kinds of characters here. “Secret Headquarters.”
Secret Headquarters hardly reinvents the superhero wheel, but it has so much heart that you don’t mind. Certain elements could be better served with deeper exploration, but viewers looking for a silly, rambunctious adventure will likely be satisfied. Scobell is a young star in the making, as are Williams, Tamada, and Witherspoon. It forms a large part of the magic of Secret Command. Watching them play, fight and become heroes is an enjoyable experience and you just have to overlook some of the superficiality you find elsewhere. Overall, this adventure is a success.
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