Movie review in the Friday, March 12 Oregonian....
The first "Agent Cody Banks" wasn't high art, but it's easy to see why it was a modest hit with the kids.
In marketing terms, it was a nicely designed piece of wish-fulfillment: It told the story of a teen spy (played by bobble-headed Everygeek Frankie Muniz) who dished out a surprising amount of kung fu -- all while flanked by pan-generational cuties Angie Harmon and Hilary Duff. And while the narrative was kind of gadget-choked and clunky, "Malcolm in the Middle" star Muniz smoothed a lot of wrinkles with his sitcom charm -- getting the girl, saving the world and convincing the CIA to do his chores. Maestro!
Unfortunately, "Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London" is less of the same.
This innocuous (if decidedly lower-wattage) sequel has less action, less danger, less interesting gadgets, less star power and a lot less production value. Although it's an MGM picture, it feels like one of those quickie Disney sequels that get dumped into theaters to boost DVD sales. It's a fiesta of filler.
The major difference between "Cody Banks" 1 and 2 is a difference of tone. The first film actually plays its adventure pretty straight -- with Agent Banks taking on track-suited supervillains who'd look perfectly at home in one of the Roger Moore Bond flicks. (The filmmakers even hired "Bourne Identity" composer John Powell to lend the soundtrack some spoofy heft.) "Destination London," by contrast, is a much lighter, goofier movie; it’s almost as if the producers grounded Cody Banks for kissing a girl and kicking too many people last year.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing; many parents will prefer taking their kids to a sequel where the hormones and violence are turned way down. But in child-proofing the sequel, they also drop its IQ. Muniz may be taller -- he's actually growing into his enormous head -- but his film franchise is getting younger around him.
This time around, Banks travels to Old Blighty to take on a pack of bumbling morons -- including his former CIA camp counselor (Keith Allen) -- who want to use mind-control software on world leaders. However, the villains' use of this bold new technology rarely extends beyond (a) making a dog play piano and (b) making the leaders of the free world kick each other on the fanny.
Of the original's supporting cast, only Keith David has much screen time as the cranky CIA director; even Banks' family (which includes the great Cynthia Stevenson) is reduced to a money-saving drive-on. Meanwhile, Banks' new "handler" is played by Anthony Anderson ("Kangaroo Jack") -- and you can't help feeling a little embarrassed for Anderson as he zips through the back streets of London (which he refers to as a "backwater") on a scooter that's too small for him and delivers lines like, "Never interrupt a brother who's breaking down the apothecary table!"
Embarrassed, that is, if you can remember anything about the story an hour after you leave the theater. "Cody Banks 2" is an utterly forgettable piffle -- the sort of quickie kid's film where there's almost an hour between action scenes; where a supervillain breaks wind in an elevator; and where Banks, under mind control, flings food on classical-music prodigies. If you have a low opinion of the first "Banks" and your kids drag you to this one, you may be tempted to do some food-flinging of your own.
(98 minutes; rated PG for action violence and some crude humor) Grade: C