Imagine being a kid with divorced parents. Even worse, your father is constantly absent and missing out on his visitation responsibilities. Then, while he’s away, you and your friends discover his secret lair. Your dad is the superhero The Guard.
This movie is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who has given moviegoers a plethora of adventure movies, including National Treasure, Armageddon, and Pirates of the Caribbean. While many of his movies can be considered “family-friendly,” he now goes down the rabbit hole for those that are definitively under 18 and deliver a superhero movie told from a slightly unique point of view. Having a young son learn about his father isn’t entirely new, as seen in the CW series Superman & Lois. Still, we are dealing with a broken family because the father chose to make keeping the world safe a greater priority than his own marriage and son.
Jack Kincaid (Owen Wilson) is camping with his wife Lily (Jessie Mueller) and his very young son Charlie. They see something crash in the woods not far from their campsite. Jack drives off to investigate and finds a dazed Air Force pilot who has crashed. Together they discover the remains of a UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon because UFO is apparently passé). A glowing orb exits the ship and scans both the pilot and Jack. It rejects the pilot and chooses Jack to serve as The Guard. Ten years later, the world has seen a drop in crime and an escalating death toll due to various disasters. The Guard’s biggest hero happens to be young Charlie Kincaid (Walker Scobell). While Charlie is at his dad’s cabin, Jack receives a message and tells Charlie he has to dash off due to some IT emergency with his job. Charlie invites his best friends over and accidentally discovers the elevator that takes all of them to his dad’s secret headquarters. They have some fun with the tech they find before the same pilot that Jack found ten years earlier discovers them, and is now employed by a man named Ansel Argon (Michael Peña), the CEO of Argon Tactical, a major defense contractor.
Secret Headquarters could almost be regarded as a Marvel movie for kids. The Guard looks like an earlier version of Iron Man with his suit and arsenal. However, unlike Tony Stark, who built all of his weapons and suit capabilities through genius alone, Jack Kincaid has the power of the orb that helped construct his secret headquarters along with all of the highly advanced computer technology. Taking this route is the perfect thing for kids to enjoy as it employs the quote from noted science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The headquarters they find is tantamount to Aladdin’s Cave, with the orb serving as the Magic Lamp. It may be technology, but to the kids, it might as well be magic. Because the movie is aimed at kids, the story has a certain simplicity. Bad guys find the headquarters; bad guys want the orb, and kids want to protect the orb. Given that they’ve already found The Guard’s lair, it’s pretty easy to discern what the kids do at this point. But, as predictable as it was, it still worked. So, yes, this movie is designed for kids to enjoy, and from that perspective, the movie succeeds!
The cast for this movie is terrific, particularly with three of its stars. Starting with Owen Wilson, he always brings a goofy and almost carefree attitude to his roles, but always with a big heart and a desire to do good. He is wonderful as the absent father who tries to be there for Charlie and is surprisingly good as The Guard. Then there is Michael Peña, who is no stranger to superhero movies. Fans may best remember him as the talkative Luis from Ant-Man, but here he brings a chilling quality to the part of Argon. Still, he manages to bring his comedic chops to the role. Lastly, we see the return of Walker Scobell (The Adam Project and the upcoming series Percy Jackson and the Olympians). This young man is a natural when it comes to being on screen. I wondered if what we saw in The Adam Project was a one-off with his performance, but Scobell was fantastic as Charlie. He brought all the emotions needed for a young teenage boy who felt abandoned by his father, who defended The Guard with his words, felt terror by Argon and his crew, and then the betrayal when he learned about his father. Scobell’s acting was perfectly polished. Even when Charlie was tempted to make bad choices, Scobell could convey the conflicting emotions on his face without saying a word. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Scobell has the potential to go very far as an actor.
Secret Headquarters is a deceptive movie. With all of its visual polish, it looks like a family film, much like The Adam Project. It isn’t. This movie, while adults can enjoy it, is for kids. This is their movie as it addresses some important topics for kids. For example, there is hero worship and the broken family with the absent parent. Secret Headquarters touches on both of them perfectly, giving young viewers a possible feeling of representation, even if they’re too young to realize it yet.
For its action, comedy, and even dramatic moments, I give Secret Headquarters 5 out of 5 orbs.
Secret Headquarters is currently streaming on the Paramount Plus app and website.
While hanging out after school, Charlie and his friends discover the headquarters of the world’s most powerful superhero hidden beneath his home. When villains attack, they must team up to defend the headquarters and save the world. SECRET HEADQUARTERS launched on the Paramount Plus streaming service on August 5, 2022.