Walker Scobell finds out his dad doubles as a superhero...

Walker Scobell finds out his dad doubles as a superhero in the Paramount+ movie "Secret Headquarters." Credit: Paramount Pictures/Hopper Stone

THE MOVIE "Secret Headquarters"

WHERE Streaming on Paramount +

WHAT IT'S ABOUT At some point, we're all forced to confront the fact that our parents have secrets. In the Paramount+ movie "Secret Headquarters," 14-year-old Charlie Kincaid (Walker Scobell) uncovers a whopper: His dad, Jack (Owen Wilson), covertly doubles as Charlie's favorite superhero, The Guard.

That's the concept around which filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (best known for their work on the "Catfish" and "Paranormal Activity" franchises) construct this picture that attempts a cheap cash-in on the never-ending superhero craze.

The plot finds Charlie, not yet aware of Jack's secret identity, inviting his pals over to dad's house after he abruptly abandons their weekend together for "work reasons." Some run-of-the-mill exploring leads them to his high-tech underground lair, which is not particularly disguised nor protected.

Unfortunately for Charlie and friends, including Maya (Momona Tamada), Lizzie (Abby James Witherspoon) and Berger (Keith L. Williams), they're not the only ones exploring The Guard's headquarters.

Arms industry titan Argon (Michael Peña) resents The Guard for cutting into his business by facilitating peace and harmony worldwide. He's after the otherworldly device that crash-landed on Earth one day and gave Jack his powers.

MY SAY This is one of those movies that surely sounded good on paper, or during a pitch meeting on Zoom or in a company boardroom or wherever. Owen Wilson playing a superhero? How quirky! Wrap in the family audience by making it all about the teens? Streaming gold!

And it all might have worked had it been written and directed with the slightest bit of a desire to be something more than a corporate product.

But there's nothing in the way of an artistic vision or particular interest shown in developing these characters, or locating them in an authentic universe. The sheer astonishment Charlie must have felt at discovering his "uncool" dad is actually the world's coolest guy quickly fades away in the service of a gimmicky plot involving your standard-issue MacGuffin.

So you're left with a lot of busy nonsense: The product placement includes shoutouts to Nintendo Switch and DiGiorno Pizza.

Once inside The Guard's headquarters, the teens push a bunch of buttons and goof off before the generic bad guys arrive and do exactly what generic bad guys do in these family movie situations — make a lot of stern demands with just enough of a wink to make it clear that nothing is to be taken too seriously.

Then, there are the logical fallacies and missed opportunities. The Guard seems to have absolutely no idea about this intrusion into his base or that his power source has been jeopardized. He's not very good at the whole superhero thing, it seems.

Further, that power source, a floating orb, is totally unexplained: there's no clue as to where it came from or why it's here.

The teens love Anne Murray and MTV's "Cribs," even though it's 2022.

Wilson, ostensibly the star of the movie alongside Scobell, is absent for most of the running time.

What a mess.

BOTTOM LINE There's probably enough going on in "Secret Headquarters" for some young audiences to have a good time, but parents, please: Have your kids' best interests at heart and steer them elsewhere.

Top Stories