Agent Cody Banks Movie Review

I recently read an article that argued TV shows like CSI and James Bond movies are primarily responsible for young people's increased interest in criminal forensics and special military forces. Since Hollywood is both smart and shameless, it uses these notions to its advantage, devouring the success of Bond and vomiting up films like Spy Kids and Agent Cody Banks. Although the original Spy Kids worked, Agent Cody Banks proves that things seldom taste as good a second or third time.

Agent Cody Banks was made just to make money, and to stock Toys 'R' Us shelves and McDonald's Happy Meal boxes with cheap action figures. The script, which feels like the cheapest writers available threw it together in a week, is actually quite impressive in how every mind-numbing scene attempts to manipulate the minds of susceptible adolescents. It uses every trick in the book, from pre-teen humor and Bond rip-offs, to busty secret agents, phony special effects, and, of course, Frankie Muniz. If -- God forbid -- the movie is a hit, the producers have even secured an easy sequel with its carefully formulated ending.

Frankie Muniz is one of those kid actors who is making a lot of money while he is young, but when he gets older, he will gradually disappear from the screen. By the time he reaches his mid-twenties, his agents and publicists will have abandoned him altogether. Right now, however, he's still got his Malcolm in the Middle charm, so he continues to make headlines. He does, however, look like he's put on a little weight in Agent Cody Banks, or maybe I was so bored during the movie I began to hallucinate.

Muniz stars as the title character, a normal kid living a normal life near Seattle. He hates school, loves skateboarding, argues with his parents, despises his younger brother, complains about doing his chores, and gets nervous around girls. When a brilliant new technology threatens the world, however, the CIA calls upon Banks to do their dirty work.

You see, Cody has a big secret that even his family doesn't know: he's actually an undercover agent who's been trained by a special program of the CIA disguised as a summer camp. He's every kid's dream, complete with super fighting abilities, special gadgets, and an ultra-hot boss, Agent Ronica Miles (Angie Harmon). But Cody's first assignment involves befriending a popular high school girl, Natalie Connors (Hilary Duff), in order to spy on her father, the man who has developed the threatening technology. Cody must stop the evildoers from forcing Natalie's father into using the dangerous technology against his will.

Harald Zwart directs the film, but his last, the stylish comedy One Night at McCool's, was much better. Agent Cody Banks does not prove he's a horrible filmmaker, because, at times, there's a definite style that wants to break away from the commercialism, but it's constantly interrupted by the movie's desire to his studio bosses.

Result: Agent Cody Banks has no identity; every scene aims to please, whether or not it makes sense in context with the rest of the movie. For instance, late in the film, Banks' cover as a CIA agent is blown after he tosses a few kids into a swimming pool at a party. But wouldn't an earlier scene during driver's ed, when Cody cuts his instructor's brakes and speeds around the school driving lot on the car's right two tires like James Bond, be more likely blow his cover? The difference is the earlier scene aims for cheap laughs, while the later scene is required for the plot to advance.

The movie is not without on-screen talent. Supporting actors Keith David, Angie Harmon, and Hilary Duff create solid characterization and sustain high energy; it is Muniz who can't act is way out of a paper bag. Ironic this lad once said, "Acting classes, I guess, are good and I would like to maybe sometime take one. But I would feel like I was learning someone else's technique. I like mine." Probably better you don't, Frankie. Stick to your own "technique," because if you did take an acting class, you would probably flunk.



Agent Cody Banks Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: PG, 2003


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