Blu-ray Review: Secret Headquarters

Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story

There was once a time when a movie having a superhero theme was viewed as niche and risky, but with five of the current top ten grossing domestic films being superhero movies, it’s clear that we’ve long left that time in the dust. But with great power comes great responsibility, and it’s now up to Hollywood to come up with fresh new takes on the genre in order to keep people interested. One idea that had a lot of potential is Secret Headquarters, which was likely pitched along the lines of, “What if you crossed Home Alone with Iron Man?”

Now I say had a lot of potential because I feel like it does come up short in terms of being memorable, or warranting multiple viewings. But while I’m – for better or worse – a man-child, I also know that I’m not the target audience for a movie like this. So while I’m good with a single viewing it’s entirely possible that some kids will eat this up and live vicariously through it, and if that’s the case, all the power to them! Secret Headquarters is a fun movie and while it does overstay its welcome in its current format by 15-minutes or so, it’s still an entertaining enough way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

What I like about Secret Headquarters is the cast, first and foremost. I’ve always been a huge Owen Wilson fan and it’s fun to see him as a superhero, even though he’s not really front and center for the majority of the film. That role belongs to Charlie (Walker Scobell), who is the son of Wilson’s character Jack. The film begins with Jack and his wife Lily (Jessie Mueller) on a camping trip with their young son when they witness a crash landing in the distance. With nobody else around to help Jack jumps into action and finds downed Air Force pilot Irons (Jesse Williams) in the middle of the road. The two go back to the source of the crash and it’s there they find a power source that rejects Irons and finds compatibility with Jack to be its guardian.

The film then jumps forward 10 years and we learn that Jack has been saving the world time and time again, but due to these commitments he ends up losing his marriage and any real relationship he could’ve had with his son. This comes to a head when Charlie is visiting for his birthday but duty calls and Jack aka The Guard has to spring into action. Jack apologizes, but Charlie tells him to forget about it and that his mom is coming to get him – only he lied and she isn’t. So now Charlie has the place to himself and he invites over his best friend Berger (Keith L. Williams), who takes it upon himself to invite their two crushes, Maya (Momona Tamada) and Lizzie (Abby James Witherspoon) respectively. As they begin to snoop around the house they uncover The Guard’s secret lair and all the gadgets found within.

There are a few odd notes here, as when Charlie calls his mom he tells his dad that she’ll be there in 10 minutes and he completely buys it, which gives off the impression that they live within 10-minutes of one another. If this is the case then it seems a lot sillier that Jack can’t make more time for Charlie in-between missions. The Guard also goes on missions for days at a time, instead of the usual in-and-out and home by dinner that we usually see in superhero films, so it’s not entirely clear why he’s gone so long. It’s not like there’s much undercover work that can be done in his attire.

Still, sometimes you just look past things so that can be done here if you like. It doesn’t hinder the story much, and if anything just allows for this wedge to have formed between Jack and Charlie which wouldn’t really have been there if he was able to zip away and return a few hours later. Maybe he just gets handfuls of missions dumped on him at once? That’s entirely possible, I suppose, as in this film universe The Guard is the only hero earth has, so that’d definitely be a heavy cross to bear.

The failed potential likely comes from the villains in the film, who are led by Michael Peña’s character Ansel Argon, who is your cliché CEO of a weapons facility who wants The Guard’s power in order to help make weapons and pad his own pockets. He’s got some lackeys as well, who are led by Irons, who is angry at Jack for withholding the alien power they found from the world and instead hoarding it for himself. A strong villain is as important to a superhero film as the hero themselves and while Peña is entertaining in his portrayal of the generic baddie, there’s only one point where he could be taken seriously as a threat; but it’s almost instantly extinguished and he’s more or less a goofball moving forward, which takes the stakes out of everything.

Again, what ups the game of the film is the young cast, who truly excel once they enter the secret headquarters and discover all the goodies found within. The base itself is a physical set and it’s the type of place that we’d all have likely lost our minds in had we had the chance to visit it as kids – even without the alien 3D printer creating actual jetpacks. It’s clear a lot of care went into making the set, and as a whole there are plenty of laughs to be had within it as the kids defend it from the intruders. It’s the lack of stakes that truly hinder the film, as the villain never feels like a threat and while the kids using alien-tech to cheat on a quiz given by a mean teacher fits in to how they’d likely choose to use such power at their age, their taking The Guard’s vehicle out on a joyride at crazy speeds, firing weapons at civilians in order to evade the police on the longest one-way highway in America feels silly.

That’s kind of the film as a whole, with some parts landing well and others missing the mark. The parts that hit are the humorous bits, which may be viewed as the most important thing since this is a comedy. There’s plenty to laugh at throughout, even if it’s silly in nature. A lack of any sort of character depth is the biggest miss, with everyone playing more or less one-dimensional versions of characters in a type of story that we’ve seen time and time again. In the end Secret Headquarters is a recommendation for those looking for a fun, family-friendly superhero movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, though that’s also one of its bigger weaknesses.

Overall Rating: 3/5

Blu-ray Video and Audio Review

The 1080p visuals delivered here do help the film shine when all of The Guard’s gadgets are in action, as there are lots of explosions and extraterrestrial light shows happening in the secret headquarters fairly consistently. The base is underground, but it’s lit well and pops nicely where it needs to. The areas that are darker or hidden away aren’t muddied up or distracting, and this goes for any of the scenes at night, or in the school at night during the film’s final dance battle.

There’s a Dolby Atmos audio track that absolutely booms, especially during the initial crash landing on the alien object. I wasn’t prepared for it and actually forgot to turn my back speakers up, yet they still rumbled during the crash and made it sound like the ship was coming down around us. The dialogue is also nice and clear and mixed well with the film’s soundtrack and mix. As a whole it’s the standout of this Blu-ray release; however, there are absolutely no issues on the visual end to point out.

Special Features

BFFLS – This is a 6-minute featurette that just showcases the cast and crew, how lively it was on set, and how much fun everyone clearly had working together. The vibe does shine through into the film itself and it’s great to see everyone having such a good time when heading into work.

The Secret Headquarters – Here’s another 6-minute featurette where we’re taking on a bit of a tour through the secret headquarters by Momona and Abby. We also hear from the cast and crew as they talk about it and the benefits of having the massive set built for the film.

Panic! At the Moon Dance – We’ve got one more 6-minute featurette on the disc, with this one taking place at the abandoned high school where they filmed the final battle sequence in the film. It’s quick, but also fun to see how they made certain things happen, as well as the contagious energy that everyone seemed to have on set throughout the entirety of the shoot!

Who Is The Guard – This is a five-and-a-half minute featurette that focuses on Owen Wilson’s character in the film, why he was chosen, what he does and what the power source helps him do.

Gag Reel – This one comes in at just under 4-minutes in length and is your basic gag reel that’s fun to watch if you’re a fan of them.

Deleted and Extended Scenes – These come in for a total of 10-minutes in length, and we’ve got three extended scenes and one deleted for those interested.

Paramount Pictures Presents Secret Headquarters. Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman. Written by: Henry Joost, Josh Koenigsberg. Starring: Owen Wilson, Michael Peña, Walker Scobell, Jesse Williams, Keith L. Williams, Momona Tamada, Abby James Witherspoon, Charles Melton, Kezii Curtis, Jessie Mueller, Michael Anthony, Dustin Ingram, Levy Tran, Dayna Beilenson. Running time: 104 minutes. Rating: PG. Blu-ray Released: Dec. 20, 2022.

Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.