- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2004

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen movie fights and chases so poorly executed as in “Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London.” Though barely presentable by respectable professional standards, the movie may be some kind of juvenile rage in the making. A weekend press screening was mobbed, suggesting a generational rite of disenchantment for the preteen and early-teen segments of the moviegoing audience.

The motley sequel begins at a clandestine summer camp for junior CIA operatives. Frankie Muniz’s supremely implausible Cody, now 16, appears to be the star camper. Anyway, he already has a posse of fawning boy admirers. The basic purpose of this setup is to introduce us to the villain of the yarn, Keith Allen as a renegade scoutmaster called Victor Diaz. An aspiring despot, Diaz escapes apprehension despite Cody’s daring, pictorially bungled effort to chain his getaway chopper to a convenient totem pole.

A follow-up mission flings Cody to London, where he will join an “international youth orchestra” rehearsing for a recital in Buckingham Palace. Between rehearsals, he needs to ferret Diaz out of hiding. The elusive and expendable Diaz is linked to a conspiracy of mind-benders, who possess some kind of lunatic computer program that will supposedly make world leaders putty in their hands.

To lighten the workload, Cody is assigned a rotund black watchdog, Derek Bowman, played by Anthony Anderson, encouraged to act so stereotypically mouthy and ethnic that it’s difficult to believe movie racial humor has advanced an inch beyond the period when Mantan Moreland was hired to chauffeur Charlie Chan and his sons. Mr. Anderson also gets the most cringe-worthy sight gags, igniting kitchen fires while posing as a chef and upturning urine samples at the desk of a police sergeant, who fails to notice that his sandwich has been soaked.

Cody is said to reside in Seattle. His parents, thankless roles for Cynthia Stevenson (superlative in Robert Altman’s “The Player” several years ago) and Daniel Roebuck, appear only as clueless tokens. Being out of the loop and the game makes them look pitiful in a far from amusing way. Perhaps deliberately, it also stirs one’s animosity toward whatever government mind-set has opened the door to recruitment of twerps such as Cody for espionage duty.

The level of cleverness may be gauged by the way Cody’s ringer status with the orchestra is exploited for a stale laugh. Devoid of even rudimentary knowledge of music, Cody is inserted into a supposedly classical ensemble of peers. Asked about his favorite composer, poor Cody draws a blank, sees a handy bottle of brand-name ketchup and quickly claims admiration for Heinz and his 57 symphonies.

There’s nothing like the movies to remind you of the relative nature of contentment. Now that “Agent Cody Banks 2” is reeling into the marketplace, I can’t remember why I thought “Inspector Gadget” had any discernible shortcomings five years ago.

*

TITLE: “Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London”

RATING: PG (Occasional violence, usually with facetious overtones; fleeting comic vulgarity)

CREDITS: Directed by Kevin Allen. Screenplay by Don Rhymer. Cinematography by Dennis Cross. Production design by Richard Holland. Costume design by Steven Noble. Music by Mark Thomas

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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