In recent years, the superhero genre has received more attention than any other. As a result, it is very easy to become overwhelmed by all the options available to you. The phenomenon of superhero fatigue is very real. There is, however, a plus side to this, which is that the definition of what a superhero project can be has expanded. Those who are concerned about the gritty and violent nature of The Boys may prefer the more lighthearted world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Paramount+’s new original film Secret Headquarters. Despite the CGI spectacle, the Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman-directed film is less of a superhero story than a wish fulfillment caper. A fun adventure for all ages, Secret Headquarters is aided by an excellent young cast, despite some superficial elements.
Charlie Kincaid (Walker Scobell), 14, has a difficult relationship with his father, Jack (Owen Wilson). Jack constantly flakes on Charlie and does not even realize that his son is left-handed. In reality, Jack is more than just a deadbeat father: he is the world-famous superhero the Guard, chosen by an alien artifact years ago to protect Earth from alien threat. Charlie and his friends make creative use of his dad’s high-tech gadgets when they discover his dad’s secret for the first time. Charlie and his friends must, however, hero up and save the day when a team of bad guys (led by Michael Pea’s corporate villain Argon) come searching for Jack’s powers.
Based on a story by Christopher Yost, Joost and Schulman co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher Yost and Josh Koenigsberg. Despite the fact that the concept of a child discovering the awesome truth about their boring parent is not exactly new (Spy Kids is just the tip of the iceberg), Secret Headquarters provides a lot of fun with it. The film quickly establishes Charlie’s dissatisfaction with Jack, and the viewer will probably be able to predict how their relationship develops by the end. The film quickly establishes Charlie’s dissatisfaction with Jack, and the viewer will probably be able to predict how their relationship develops by the end. Although Secret Headquarters could be described as predictable, Joost and Schulman manage to inject enough childlike wonder into the action to make it easy to overlook some of its shortcomings. Charlie and his friends bring Jack’s gadgets to school, and the directors find plenty of humor in the silly ways in which they use the alien technology.
If one looks past the lighthearted antics and cast, one can see Secret Headquarters’ flaws. Neither Joost nor Schulman spend much time exploring Jack’s extraterrestrial setup nor do they devote much time to developing the villains. It is only Jesse Williams, playing a pilot who is desperate to discover the truth behind the Guard’s existence, who receives something resembling a real arc, but it is relatively shallow in the grand scheme of things. Peña appears to be enjoying his role as the unscrupulous Argon, but his portrayal as a whole is rather flat. When it comes to 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. Although Secret Headquarters does not need to go very deeply into these topics, it would have made the film all the more memorable.
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However, the most important aspect of Secret Headquarters is its young cast, which does a fantastic job. The Adam Project proved Scobell’s chops earlier this year, and he continues to demonstrate why he will make an outstanding Percy Jackson. By balancing witty remarks with quieter vulnerability, Scobell makes Charlie an engaging character. Keith L. Williams, Momona Tamada, and Abby James Witherspoon play Charlie’s friends, and each of them brings something unique to the role. Witherspoon reveals she has more sides to her character than she initially appears to have, Williams is particularly funny, and Tamada exudes a quiet ferocity. As expected, the adult cast is composed of reliable actors. Wilson and Pe’a play very different kinds of characters here, which is amusing to see.
Despite the fact that Secret Headquarters does not reinvent the superhero wheel, it has so much heart that it is difficult to complain. It would have been beneficial to have explored some of the elements in more depth, but audiences seeking a silly, exuberant adventure will likely be satisfied. Scobell, Williams, Tamada, and Witherspoon are young stars in the making. The charm of Secret Headquarters is largely due to them. Watching them play, fight, and become heroes is an enjoyable experience, and it is sufficient to override some superficialities found elsewhere. Overall, this adventure has been a success.