What if your dad was actually a superhero? Finding one of the few routes left into the super-genre that hasn’t been trodden down already, Secret Headquarters casts Owen Wilson as a slacker parent turned comicbook vigilante and then barely uses him – deciding to remake Home Alone in the Batcave instead.
Director duo Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Paranormal Activity 3 and 4) turn in a likeable summer holiday comedy that’ll keep the kids distracted, even if it does make parents yearn for the Wedding Crashers meets Iron Man crossover we’re now never going to get.
Ten years ago, Jack (Wilson) and his son Charlie (soon to be the new Percy Jackson, Walker Scobell) are on a camping trip when a military jet crashes into something above them. Jack rushes over to help the pilot and discovers an alien orb that syncs with his DNA and gives him the power to harness super-space technology.
Flash forward to today and Jack is now living alone in a cabin in the woods, leading a secret double life as “The Guard” – flying around the world to stop wars, rescue hostages and save lives without anyone knowing his true identity. For Charlie though, he’s just a rubbish dad.
Bailing on a weekend visit from his son, Jack flies out of the film after about 15 minutes. Left alone in his dad’s cabin, Charlie calls his friends over (Keith L. Williams, Momona Tamada and Abby James Witherspoon) and almost instantly finds the entrance to The Guard’s secret underground lair.
When supervillain arms dealer Argon (Michal Peña from Ant-Man) turns up with his thugs, the kids have to start fighting back on their own – trapped in The Guard’s base full of jetpacks, teleportation portals, magic wands and rocket-powered WV camper vans.
Borrowing plenty from Spy Kids, Home Alone and every ’90s and ’00s family movie about absentee dads, Secret Headquarters isn’t anything new, but it is mostly a lot of fun. Wilson gives good superhero when he’s around (ie, the very start and the very end), but the film is really all about finding cool ways for the kids to beat up the grown-ups.
“We’re not kids. We’re young adults,” corrects Scobell, doing his best Macaulay Culkin. “And playtime… has just begun.” Younger viewers will cackle at Peña getting smashed, dropped and electrocuted for 90 minutes, but most will probably find it funnier that all the Americans keep calling a bumbag a “fanny pack”. The special effects are half decent too (likely thanks to the bottomless budget of producer Jerry Bruckheimer) and an explosive finale gives a pay-off worth waiting for, even if it is exactly the one you’d expect.
It might not be much of an Owen Wilson movie, or even that much of a superhero flick, but if you ignore the poster and trailer and the casting and premise, there’s a fun little Sunday afternoon family film here just begging for a sequel.
- Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
- Starring: Owen Wilson, Walker Scobell, Michael Peña
- Release date: August 12 (Paramount+)