A little “Shazam,” a bit of “Spy Kids,” a hint of “Agent Cody Banks,” there’s barely an original thought in “Secret Headquarters.” Not that the kiddie audience this Paramount+ production is intended for will care, or even recognize that.
It’s a violent, noisy, slangy and pricey superhero movie that’s for fankids, not fanboys or fangirls or the lactose intolerant. Talk about cheesy.
Owen Wilson plays a guy who stumbles into a “UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena)” crash site, and after asking an Air Force pilot who collided with it, “What, UFO wasn’t working for you guys?” is “chosen” to receive alien “guardian” technology.
He’s fitted for the suit and the gadgets and zips around the globe, saving hostages, stopping meltdowns and preventing wars.
But this bothers a lot of people. First, there’s the pilot (Jesse Williams) whom no one believes saw a UFO and who wasn’t chosen. Then, there’s the defense-contractor (Michael Peña) who wants the tech. And last and least comes Charlie (Walker Scobell), the son Jack Kincaid neglects for the next eight years as he’s out saving the planet.
“I thought he worked at a Genius bar!”
“Secret Headquarters” is what middle school Charlie and the pals (Momona Tamada, Kezii Curtis, Keith L. Williams and Abby James Witherspoon) stumble into when now-divorced Dad, who’s told the kid nothing, leaves Charlie home alone.
The bad guys come hunting for the tech, the kids have to fight them off, bickering and joking along the way. Guns are fired, minions die. A school dance is trashed.
The crack team behind the camera here have a “Paranormal Activity” sequel and a Netflix superpower movie nobody remembers (“Project Power”) on their resumes, and no feel at all for tween-to-teen entertainment.
“We’re not KIDS. We’re YOUNG ADULTS.”
The jokes are mostly telegraphed and fall flat, especially the ones about kids-a-“that age.”
“I know I look really mature, but I’m just now getting comfortable in my own skin!”
At least “I’m too PRETTY to die!” plays.
Superhero movie or not, that tweenage audience is tricky to target, so there’s no shame in missing it. But miss it they did.
Leaving the funniest player in the cast out of most of the picture? That’s just dumb.
Rating: Rated PG for violence, action, language and some rude humor.
Cast: Owen Wilson, Jesse Williams, Walker Scobell, Momona Tamada, Kezii Curtis, Keith L. Williams, Abby James Witherspoon and Michael Peña.
Credits: Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, scripted by Josh Koenigsberg, Ariel Schulman, Henry Jost and Christopher L. Yost. A Paramount+ release.
Running time: 1:44