Director Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, who brought superheroes to streaming with Netflix’s Project Power, do the same for Paramount+ with family adventure Secret Headquarters.
Walker Scobell stars as Charlie, a teenager struggling to connect with his father Jack (Owen Wilson), who is always away for work. While staying home alone at his house, Charlie discovers his father is The Guardian, a superhero powered by alien technology. The discovery alerts villains who attack the base, forcing Charlie and his friends to defend it in order to save the world.
Borrowing elements of Spy Kids, and the 2000s Thunderbirds film, it unfolds like a kid-friendly Marvel entry. The Guardian’s suit is clearly Iron Man-inspired, and Wilson himself has an MCU connection thanks to TV show Loki.
Such comparisons are not helpful, however, as the adventure feels too derivative to be taken seriously. It lacks the winking satire of Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids franchise, feeling basic even for a broad family movie.
A Scooby Doo gang of Charlie and his friends get most of the screentime and are nice enough, but their big expressions and comedy japes quickly become tired. Michael Peña is agreeable as the not-that-menacing villain Ansel Argon, yet another movie baddie with an essence of Elon Musk. Wilson is largely absent considering his presence in the film’s marketing, popping up for the odd quip-filled action sequence but letting the kids do the heavy lifting.
Considering the clamour for anything vaguely superhero related, Secret Headquarters will satisfy those who just can’t go a week without some sort of CGI madness. However, even younger viewers will forget about this mild Marvel imitator far too soon.