Agent Cody Banks (2003) / Comedy-Action

MPAA Rated: PG for action violence, mild language and some sensual content
Running Time: 102 min.

Cast: Frankie Muniz, Hillary Duff, Angie Harmon, Keith David, Daniel Roebuck
Harald Zwart
Screenplay: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Review published March 20, 2003

While it's not going to score any points for originality, Agent Cody Banks almost has enough energy and charm to make you overlook its considerable flaws.  You can pretty much guess how it's all going to play out from the set-up, and there is very little in the way of surprises along the way to set this apart from obvious comparisons to James Bond and the Spy Kids flicks.  However, for the target audience of kids and young teens, there's actually plenty here to keep them entertained, and maybe some adults too, so long as no one expects anything other than a derivative, escapist time at the movies.

The film stars Frankie Muniz as the title character, not just your typical teenage boy, because the CIA has been recruiting children to be spies when needed in the guise of summer camp, unbeknownst to their parents, and Cody is one of them.  Cody's card gets called up as the young man to help protect Natalie, daughter of one of the world's foremost scientists, who has been kidnapped by some bad-guy terrorist for his creation of mini nanotech robot creatures which can eat through any carbon-based material.  Meant to be used to clean up oil spills, these baddies want to use them to put into the world's supplies of ice, and although Natalie's dad refuses, he may think differently if her life is at risk.  Cody must find a way to get close to Natalie to protect her, but he's tongue-tied around girls, and she's definitely cute enough to make Cody's hands clammy.

As far as forgettable teen action flicks goes, Cody Banks isn't as bad as most.  The best facet of the production comes from terrific casting all around, with Muniz and Duff both very likeable in the lead roles, and a supporting cast of fine character actors who are perfectly matched according to their natural personalities.  Admittedly, this is a marketing flick, built around creating video games, action figures, and soundtracks, in addition to peddling lots of products conveniently placed to get more advertising revenue, so one should not expect high art.  It's meant to be easily digestible fare.

If there's a movie that might explain the feeling of deja vu you might feel while watching this, it's Jackie Chan's The Tuxedo.  Both feature someone on their first spy mission, lots of tongue-in-cheek humor, and a virtually identical plot of terrorists out to pollute the world water supply with micro-organisms that will eat people alive.  Both are fun when the main character is put into funny situations, and alas, both take a dip in quality when dealing with the final confrontation, with some unsavory moments that leave a sour aftertaste in what is otherwise a lighthearted spoof.

Agent Cody Banks is primarily a kid flick, but unlike Spy Kids, adults will probably also be mildly amused enough to sit through it without feeling too restless.  Expectations need to be low, as this action comedy isn't going to blow you away or make you roll in the aisles with laughter.  What it does do is deliver just enough of both for those with a craving for this kind of material, and until a rather lackluster final third, Cody keeps itself together with slick direction, amusing situations, and a supercharged energy.  Almost recommended.

-- Followed by Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004)

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo