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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Promotes teamwork, courage, perseverance. Charlie and friends work as a unit and use their various strengths and expertise to face off against the villains. Stresses importance of honesty between parents and kids, of being open and vulnerable with friends, of the value of sacrifice and caring for others.
Positive Role Models
The Guard is a brave superhero but isn't always an attentive father (this is an ongoing source of tension with his ex-wife and son). Charlie and his friends work together and overcome their fears to hold off the villains. They're loyal friends who work out their differences. One character who's positioned as a villain proves to have more complex motivations.
Charlie's racially/ethnically diverse group of friends includes a Black boy, a White girl, and an Asian girl. The villain and his gang are also diverse. Although race and gender roles aren't themes of the movie, characters do make incidental comments related to the topics, like Big Mac discussing his flat top, and Lizzie being both a popular influencer and a gifted computer scientist/hacker. The girls are as brave and smart as the boys. One scene includes a negatively portrayed, ableist mocking of a fear-induced stutter (the teen later clarifies that he only stammers when he's stressed). One character has asthma and uses an inhaler.
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Violence & Scariness
Charlie and his friends face armed mercenaries who threaten to kill them, chase them, keep some of them hostage, tie them up, shoot at them, and throw bombs in their direction. One member of the villains' crew is shot and killed when he refuses to harm kids. Main villain is played as funny in his sometimes bumbling attempts at violence, but his team can be frightening; several touch-and-go moments. More than one death threat against the teens. The kids are only temporarily injured and all survive, but there are moments of peril as they fight off adults. More comical moments of violence: Charlie gets hit by a baseball after he pitches, the kids fall and bump in to one another (one is even knocked out) because of a weapon, the kids drive recklessly with The Guard's super gadgets. Friends get into a physical fight but later reconcile. Images from The Guard's missions show dangerous situations and disasters around the world.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Charlie has a crush on Maya. Lizzie has a boyfriend who's two years older. A teen couple share a brief, public first kiss. A villain makes a joke that the "vibe" between Charlie and Maya is "too hot" and "uncomfortable."
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"Crap," "crappy," "dang it," "shoot," "idiots," "front butt," "stupid," "piss," "damn," what the hell," "you remind me of a fart." Possible use of "s--t."
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Products & Purchases
Two Volkswagen buses, Reebok, Coke, and brief shot of various snacks in vending machine.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Secret Headquarters is a family-friendly superhero film about a middle schooler named Charlie (Walker Scobell). It's a great pick for fans of movies like Shazam!, Spy Kids, and Ant-Man. Charlie and his three best friends discover a secret basement under his divorced father's (Owen Wilson) house and realize that Charlie's dad might be world-renowned superhero The Guard. They run into trouble when the bunker is attacked by a team of corporate mercenaries. The kids use lots of sci-fi gadgets and weapons, and the villains have guns. Expect mostly mild language ("idiots," "damn," "piss") and a combination of both comical and realistic violence. Most of it is aimed at the teen characters, who are taken hostage, chased, and threatened with death. In one shocking scene, someone is shot and killed (no blood) for refusing to harm the kids. There are lots of jokes and physical comedy, as well as a couple of crushes/romances, one of which leads to a first kiss. Themes include courage, teamwork, perseverance, and the importance of honesty between parents and kids. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This fun, tween-friendly superhero adventure centers on the hero's son and his clever friends, who use all their resources to stand up to corporate bullies. Co-directors/writers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman show how the young teens would realistically use The Guard's gadgets to get ahead at school and in sports before having to make more mature decisions about how to defeat the nefarious Argon and his trained assassins/security detail. The violence swings between comical (there are shades of Home Alone as the kids use accessories to trip up the baddies) and occasionally surprisingly peril (overt death threats against the kids). This being a family-targeted film, no lasting (physical) harm comes to the teens, but the hostage-taking scenes and "get rid of them" threats might prove upsetting for young or sensitive-to-weapons kids. On the bright side, Peña is funny as the villain. His mercenaries -- with stern expressions and perpetually pointed weapons -- are the real menaces.
Scobell, who has been tapped to play Percy Jackson for the TV series reboot, is ideally cast as a believable middle schooler with an adorable crush and a loyal set of besties. The two girls talk about much more than boys and have surprisingly adept skills, given the circumstances (Maya knows tactics and weaponry; Lizzie is a computer science and math whiz). Williams is a sweet softie as Charlie's BFF, and Kezii Curtis has a memorable supporting role as Berger's driving, INXS-loving older brother "Big Mac" ("Never Tear Us Apart" pops up a couple of times). For all of its silliness, the movie also provides underlying messages about the value of honest parent-kid communication, teamwork, and using your talents -- with or without super gadgets.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.