Agent Cody Banks (2003) Movie Review

In a strange way it’s a testament to the originality of the James Bond movies that most spy films since has either tried to emulate it or turn the whole secret agent formula on its head in a sort of warped homage. There was the grunge look (“XXX”), the black look (“Bad Company”), the slapstick look (“The Tuxedo”), the parody look (the “Austin Powers” films) and finally, the kiddie look (“Spy Kids” and now “Agent Cody Banks”). Like the other homage/emulations, “Cody Banks” offers nothing new besides it one twist — in this case, teen Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz) is a suave superagent but can’t get the girls to stop thinking he’s a special ed student.

As is the case in these parody/tongue-in-cheek approaches to James Bond, the plot of “Cody Banks” is so irrelevant that it begs to be ignored. What we get is something to do with nano-technology and an Evil International Criminal type who wants to destroy America blah blah blah. The only worthwhile thing to mention is that the Evil International Criminal type has Arnold Vosloo (“The Mummy”) as his oddball sweat pants wearing henchman. Angie Harmon, formerly of TV’s “Law and Order”, provides sizzling sex appeal as Muniz’s CIA handler/partner. There hasn’t been a sexier spy since Famke Jansen burned up the screen in a tight miniskirt number in “I Spy”.

As directed by Harald Zwart, “Cody Banks” is actually a better movie than the other bastard son of James Bond called “XXX”. At the very least, “Banks” never entirely put me to sleep. There’s nothing remotely close to seriousness in “Cody Banks”, which helps a lot. Surprisingly, the sight of a teen shooting down a snowy mountain in a jet-powered snowboard actually seems much more interesting and reasonable here than when Vin Diesel was doing it in the other movie. I don’t know what it is about extreme sports in movies, but when adults do it it just seems somehow inappropriate. Kinda like when you see adults try to skateboard in real life.

My guess is that kids that follow the TV careers of popular actor Frankie Muniz (“Malcolm in the Middle”) or leading lady Hilary Duff (“Lizzie McGuire”) will get the most bang from “Cody Banks”. The presence of the lovely Angie Harmon will certainly perk the attention of adult males, but there’s no way the CIA-as-playground gimmicks will play to adults. Come on, CIA agents riding around on one of those weird uni-go-kart-thingies? I think not.

There’s plenty of action of the explosive and fisticuffs variety in “Cody Banks” to keep most kids happy. Similar to “Spy Kids”, the guilty pleasure here is seeing a teen putting lumps on adults and coming up on top. But whereas Robert Rodriguez really went for weird and quirky with his “Spy Kids” franchise, “Cody Banks” seems more grounded — at least by comparison. It should also be said that Frankie Muniz handles the action sequences (when we see his face and it’s not a stuntman) like a real champ. The kid is entirely affable.

It shouldn’t be surprisingly to hear that “Agent Cody Banks” is a teen movie. While it does have spurts of action and comedy that only adults can enjoy (the CIA propaganda “trainee video” on the agency’s recruiting of teens is a particularly great gag), the junior adolescent antics of “Banks” will bore most adults. Then again, even some parts of the recent James Bond movie, “Die Another Day”, bored me.

Harald Zwart (director)
CAST: Frankie Muniz …. Cody Banks
Hilary Duff …. Natalie Connors
Angie Harmon …. Ronica Miles
Keith David …. CIA Director

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