‘Secret Headquarters’ Reveals an All-Too-Familiar Teenage Version of the Superhero Formula


The occasional head-scratching over why movies are sent straight to streaming isn’t a problem with “Secret Headquarters,” a spin on superheroes that inclines much closer to Disney territory. Channel than Marvel. The real surprise is that the film was never slated for a theatrical release before cooler heads prevailed, prompting it to land, unspectacularly, on Paramount+.

The explanation for this initial cast trajectory could be as simple as the fact that the film was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who has a long tradition of blockbusters. But everything else in the film has a teenage vibe and feels suited to a more modest location and expectations.

The story is easily summed up with a quick description that reflects the generic nature of the exercise: Teenage Charlie (Walker Scobell, recently featured in another streaming sci-fi/comedy film, “The Adam Project”) is irritated by his absent father (Owen Wilson), who has separated from his mother and never seems to be around.

When Dad leaves for “work” during Charlie’s visit, the child and a trio of his friends discover Dad’s secret lair, the refuge of a superhero known as the Guard, who regularly saves the world. using an Iron Man-like suit made up of alien technology.

The foursome first revel in playing with their very high-tech new toys, before their espionage alerts a villain (Michael Peña, deserving better) who is looking for the Guard’s gadgets at their location, sparking a long skirmish for acquire it. Almost all of this takes place in headquarters, giving the whole film a claustrophobic feel, while the various teenage crushes – including Charlie’s on Maya (“Momona Tamada from the Baby-Sitter’s Club”) – unfold during road.

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (“Project Power”), who share screenplay credit with Christopher Yost and Josh Koenigsberg, “Secret Headquarters” has obvious parallels to Marvel’s recent teen superhero series “Ms. Wonder.” That said, the concept borrows liberally from the genre, including elements from “Jumanji” (the remake, not the original) and “Shazam!”

Granted, no one has a monopoly on the enduring fantasy of kids saving the world, but this pattern has been used often enough to justify trying to at least bend the mold, even in a PG-rated live-action package, if not necessarily. reinvent it.

Some of the elements of “Secret Headquarters” are mildly enjoyable, but the film seems too content to fully color in the lines. The resulting image might be enough of a diversion for young children, but even they won’t miss much if the film’s contents remain under wraps.

“Secret Headquarters” premieres August 12 on Paramount+. It is rated PG.