Secret Headquarters: A Subpar Superhero Film
Paramount Plus tries—and fails—to keep up in a superhero-dominated industry with their new movie.
Yet Another Superhero Movie
Secret Headquarters is a new superhero comedy film released last month on the rookie streaming service Paramount Plus. The movie stars Owen Wilson and Walker Scobell in the leading roles, with Luis Peña, Momona Tamada, Keith L. Williams, and Abby James Witherspoon rounding out the cast. In the film, Charlie (Scobell) discovers that his divorced deadbeat dad (Wilson) may secretly be a superhero. As Charlie and his friends (Tamada, Williams, Witherspoon) stumble across his father's titular secret headquarters, they accidentally disclose the location to a mega-corporation intent on finding the energy source used by the superhero The Guard (Wilson). This movie has been met with a mixed to hostile reception from critics and audiences alike, and for good reason.
Cashing In On A Trend
After viewing this movie, one thing is clear: Paramount is just trying to cash in on the current trend of superhero movies. In the past decade, the superhero genre has become immensely popular, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe growing into the most prominent film franchise of all time. Paramount was the original owner of the MCU, releasing five of the earliest films (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers) from their own studio. Unfortunately for them, Disney bought it out and took over the MCU as it became a critical and financial success. Perhaps this is why Paramount produced and released Secret Headquarters this year: they missed that sweet Marvel money and decided to try their hand at the superhero genre. But try as they might, their "original" story idea became a miserable failure.
Worthy Of Disney Channel
Secret Headquarters is a movie that feels like it belongs on Disney Channel. Of course, these days, streaming services are watched more than cable television, so one could say Paramount Plus is the same thing in this case. With production value reminiscent of early 2000's movies like Spy Kids and Sky High, Secret Headquarters is simply substandard. That's primarily due to the script penned by Christopher L. Yost, Josh Koenigsberg, and directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. The cast gives it their all (although maybe not enough), but the dialogue is just abysmal to work with. Walker Scobell—breakout star in the recent film The Adam Project and upcoming lead role in the highly anticipated Percy Jackson series for Disney Plus—just isn't compelling in this film. Owen Wilson, who has starred in many fantastic films in his career (Cars, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Midnight in Paris, etc.), is sadly absent for most of this film, despite being prominently featured on the poster and advertisements. Luis Peña, a hilarious actor best known for his role as the rambling sidekick in Ant-Man, isn't given enough funny material to work with and ultimately feels wasted as the villain. The rest of the actors are in similar situations: they simply cannot make their lines work. With poor writing comes forced acting, and with forced acting comes an awful movie.
Bland And Senseless
This movie has a very nonspecific title which perfectly suits how the film feels: generic. Secret Headquarters? Paramount really couldn't come up with a better title? It's not often that a movie is named after a set piece, especially a vague, seemingly endless one. Almost the entire second act of this film takes place in these headquarters: multiple characters going in and out, unspecified limitations to the room leading to confusing action scenes, and vague, overpowered sci-fi weapons that can do anything the writers desire. There's also nothing special about this film's technical aspects. The cinematography, the musical score, the editing, the visual effects, and the production design are all bland and add nothing to the picture. Therefore, the whole film is one boring mess devoid of everything that makes a movie a movie.
While this movie is by far the worst movie of the year, there are a few positives. Although they only have a few scenes together, the father-son relationship between Wilson and Scobell brings enough heart to steer this movie away from a complete disaster. Momona Tamada also performs surprisingly well despite the terrible writing, and her relationship with Scobell is cute. There are also a lot of jokes that will appeal to the younger generation and a couple that may make older audiences laugh. This movie is suitable for children old enough to comprehend superhero films but who aren't quite ready for the violence present in some. While Secret Headquarters is generic and downright pathetic compared to most other superhero films, it may offer enough entertainment for children under twelve to enjoy.
Raving Rating: 4.3