Begin with the Source. It’s this glowing orb, about the size of a cantaloupe, that provides all sorts of powers and general razzmatazz otherwise unavailable on Earth. It came from a crashed UFO and decided that the person worthy of taking possession of it — and thus becoming a superhero — was Jack Kincaid. Since Jack is played in “Secret Headquarters” by the ever-agreeable Owen Wilson, this was a wise choice.
All sorts of powers and general razzmatazz otherwise unavailable on Earth would be pretty irresistibleto an unscrupulous tech mogul. Let’s hope Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk doesn’t see “Secret Headquarters.” The one in the movie is named Ansel Argon — is his girlfriend Nancy Neon? — and the pleasure that Michael Peña takes in the role is palpable. So is the pleasure his performance gives.
“Secret Headquarters,” which starts streaming Friday on Paramount+, isn’t really about Jack or Ansel. It’s about Jack’s 14-year-old son, Charlie. Charlie doesn’t know his dad is a superhero. (There’s a reason the headquarters is secret.) So Charlie’s discovery that his dad is the Guard, Jack’s superhero moniker, comes as a serious shock.
Walker Scobell, who made his movie debut a few months ago, in Netflix’s “The Adam Project,” is just as good here. The kid can act — which means you don’t notice him acting. He’s thoroughly believable as Owen Wilson’s son, and it’s not just the facial resemblance. They share a real ease in front of the camera.
More or less at the same time that Charlie discovers the Guard’s secret identity, so does Argon. The Source is kept at the secret headquarters, now no longer secret. That becomes the chief setting of the movie, with Charlie and several of his pals using various nifty tech items to do battle with Argon and his henchpersons. The pals include Maya (Momona Tamada). Charlie’s wanting to ask her to the school dance isn’t his biggest challenge right now, but it’s up there.
“Secret Headquarters” is uneven but consistently lively. There are moments of real wit (when was the last time you saw a movie use Pig Latin?), though not enough to compensate for the fairly tired, somewhat confused action sequences. The movie’s reminiscent of the “Spy Kids” franchise, only with superpowers substituted for espionage. Fairly diverting for an adult viewer, the movie should be a real treat for a 10- or 12-year-old. The secret headquarters doubles as coolest clubhouse. Along with all the tech stuff, it has a pool table and junk-food vending machine.
If you get to the end of the movie, fast forward through the credits. A certain character’s comeuppance continues, and he makes a final, amusing appearance.
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Written by Joost, Schulman, Christopher L. Yost, and Josh Koenigsberg. Starring Owen Wilson, Walker Scobell, Michael Peña, Momona Tamada. Streaming on Paramount+. 114 minutes. PG (violence, action, language, rude humor).
Mark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.