★★Secret Headquarters feels like it was created by an artificially intelligent movie generator, picking pieces from the most successful action-adventure movies, and mashing them all together. Superhero? Check. A-list headlining actor? Check. A group of children banding together in order to overcome evil? Yes, it’s all here. Co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman don’t make a terrible movie, but their target audience is minuscule; mostly aiming for 8-to-12-year-olds. The story is not too engaging, but there are enough silly quips and tween humor to keep their desired audience happy. The rest of the audience will find the film a slog, as the cookie-cutter plot runs along, and the bad jokes start to snowball.
One night during a family camping trip, Jack (Owen Wilson) and his family witness a freak plane crash. When he rushes to the scene, Jack discovers a crashed UFO, along with a mysterious orb that attaches to him. With the power of the orb, Jack bears the weight of the world, and he turns into a secret superhero who is always busy. Charlie (Walker Scobell), is Jack’s son, and he has no idea that his dad is the anonymous superhero – The Guard. He spends his days hanging with his buddy, Berger (Keith L. Williams), and is always wondering why his dad goes on constant business trips. When he tries to spend the weekend at his dad’s for his birthday, another business trip mysteriously pops up. Charlie decides to have some friends over, including Lizzie (Abby James Witherspoon) and his secret crush, Maya (Momona Tamada). After some goofing around, the group accidentally discovers Jack’s underground secret headquarters.
There really is no glaring problem with Secret Headquarters; it is just a very mediocre film. The plot is pretty standard, the humor is not very funny, and the acting is quite passive. There is never a point in the film where it feels like these actors want to be there. The lack of chemistry, and the awkward acting are off-putting; even Wilson struggles to play a character that was worth caring for. When a movie tries to tug at one’s emotional heartstrings, there needs to be some form of connection with the cast, and unfortunately, that connection is never developed.
Secret Headquarters is a run-of-the-mill action comedy, specifically targeted at tweens. These viewers may really enjoy it, as the humor is in their wheelhouse, and the action sequences are surprisingly well done. But for most viewers, this will not end up being a memorable film, with no emotional payoff and no real plot that garners interest.
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