Superhero movies have become the meat and potatoes of the movie industry. For more than a decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has led the pack with a series of movies and TV shows that have created a unified universe where countless stories can be told. Each year, new movies keep adding to the ever-expanding universe, and more studios want to profit from the concept. Some studios do better than others in this regard, but one thing is true. It seems like superheroes are here to stay.
On this occasion, Paramount has decided to go into the superhero genre, and at the same time provide entertainment to audiences that lean more towards family entertainment. Marvel movies can be watched by the whole family, but they are mostly now becoming more and more a part of the hardcore fandom. More and more people will find it difficult to enter the MCU as there are so many films and TV shows to watch to catch up with the continuity. But Secret Headquarters, the new Paramount original film, can be seen without knowing anything about it.
Secret Headquarters is a film directed by Henry Joost, and Ariel Schulman, and stars Owen Wilson, Michael Peña, Jesse Williams, Walker Scobell, Momona Tamada, and Keith L. Williams. The film tells the story of Charlie, a young kid who has a very on-and-off relationship with his father. When he discovers that his dad is actually a powerful superhero, it seems that all the problems he has with his dad have a reason for it. Together, they will need to stop a group of villains that might put the entire world in danger.
Secret Headquarters is, without a doubt, a film that is aimed at the younger audience at home. We are talking about kids from the ages of five to ten years old. This is not a bad thing. It is great to see movies aimed at that demographic. However, while the movie is solid in what it wants to do, it executes it successfully. It means that the film can also feel alienating to some members of the older audience.
Secret Headquarters is a very simple film that follows a very simple story. At the core of the film, there is a relationship between father and son that could be better. The movie presents it in such a way that it is clear that this is the conflict that needs to be fixed before the heroes can save the day. Yes, the absent father trope has been overplayed lately, showing fathers as disposable elements and also as obstacles instead of supporting branches, and yet the trope works to an extent. At least it offers the movie more than just VFX.
Talking about the VFX, they are not really the best thing you will see, but they do their job. The worst thing about the visual effects is their design. We are into generic territory when talking about this movie. Most of the production design and most of the visual effects design feel similar to hundreds of other films that have tried to do just the same. There is nothing unique here when it comes to visuals. It is sad because the movie feels entirely devoid of personality.
Besides the generic visual effects, the movie also goes too generic when it comes to its plot. Of course, because the movie is aimed at kids, the story is simple and predictable so that the kids can follow the movie with ease. However, it does hurt as it makes the film have zero rewatchability. Once you have seen Secret Headquarters, you will be reminded of all the other movies that do the same.
The acting is solid, but it is quite bland as well. Owen Wilson is used to selling the movie, but he is barely in it. The bulk of the movie uses the kids as protagonists, and it is here where the movie is completely aimed at kids. Older audiences will have a hard time digesting all the clichés and improvised dialogue. Scobell, who played the main character, is as lost as everyone else, and his character reminds you a lot of his character in The Adam Project, a Netflix film that had a similar vibe to this.
It becomes clear, towards the third act, that the movie never really got the money to get Wilson for a long time or to execute the ambitious vision that is behind the movie. The action sequences are solid, but also funny in their lack of scale. The music, cinematography, and other technical departments are also doing a great job, but the lack of a proper style really makes the movie feel old and uninteresting.
Secret Headquarters serves the purpose of entertaining the youngest members of the audience. Parents can also watch, of course, but might find having fun with the movie a very hard thing to do. There are some moments where the jokes are aimed at parents who will, certainly, be watching with their kids, and that is it for the older demographic. Let’s hope that at least some of these pairings can have fun together when watching it together.