Some form of cash-in on Stranger Things and Power Rangers after the ships for both respected IPs has sailed, returned to port and offloaded second-hand goods and sailed again, is a peculiar idea. Secret Headquarters pursues it regardless, with supernatural, superhero and supercilious intent. Wow, as the incomparable and uniquely dire Owen Wilson would often offer. His heyday behind him, his stark utilisation as a vaguely recognisable face from way back when sees him slot into this Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman film with all the grace of a university student dropout, glumly returning to the part-time spa at which they will retire and die. Still, it could be worse. Wilson had flirtations with the big time and still does thanks to the friendly nepotism of Wes Anderson.
Somehow the fault of superheroes and villains comes down to the failure of revealing an alter ego to loved ones, as Wilson’s Jack finds out the hard way. Stuffed into their suped-up van and charging on with a collection of child stars in tow, Walker Scobell and company are in good hands with this cast. Jack had no choice but to save the world and sacrifice his family to aliens by the sounds of it. Understandable, the man has done a lot worse for a lot less, hence Cars 3. Even forgiving those sins, it is somewhat disarming to see Wilson here, paraded around as some washed-up entity it was cool to like over a decade ago. He is not, he just needs a shove in the right direction, his projects of late a dire assembly.
Between this and Bliss and the upcoming Haunted Mansion as well as Paint and including his sellout situation with Marvel, Wilson’s stock has dropped. Gone are the glory days, long live the financial stability of empty art housing ideas and implications the grandest and widest of audiences would have a hard time missing. Considering that and the effectiveness Secret Headquarters could have as a potential, potent example of message-based kid wrangling for tired parents, Joost and Schulman fail to move themselves away from the Elizabeth Banks-starring Power Rangers from six years ago. Colour schemes, character dynamics and villains are all lifted from elsewhere and conducted with a range of Saturday morning cartoon desperation, just without the suspension of reality.
The only hope of watching Secret Headquarters without the excuse of family movie night, instead cold and alone in a flat adorned with little furniture, is that the viewer is never found. But should they be discovered, rotting away with a Power Rangers meets Thor: The Dark World on in the background, they can only hope a handgun is underneath the pillow next to them. That, and one-hundred pairs of hole-ridden socks in a befuddled and lacklustre tribute to Émile from Jean-Paul Sartre’s Words. There are no words to explain the reaction of loved ones, gathered around the cold and languid body of a fallen family member, eyes affixed to a screen where Wilson laments the loss of a decade. “Adios, ten years down the drain,” he cries. So too are the last words of lonely viewers.