Directed by: Harald Zwart
Starring: Frankie Muniz, Hilary Duff, Angie Harmon, Martin Donovan
Teen Spy Adventure I was prepped to enjoy Cody Banks, the tale of a teenage CIA agent who has to smooch up a luscious schoolmate (Hilary Duff of Disney TV's Lizzie McGuire) in order to get close to her daffy-scientist father (Martin Donovan, Insomnia), whose metal-eating ice cubes are being sought by power-mad nasties.
I love spy movies and I love kid adventure tales -- and, heck, I'm not so old that I can't remember being in love with several dozen teenage boys. I've seen all 18 of the James Bond movies from which this teenage clone was spawned, so I can go with the flow of the gadgetry, villainy, violence and cleavage required by the genre. Why, then, did Cody Banks bore me to tears?
It's not just that the story is stupid and poorly told, or that star Freddie Muniz (TV's Malcolm in the Middle) shares with the young Mickey Rooney the title of least-appealing teenage boy in movie history. It's not even that the female characters (the already mentioned Duff and Angie Harmon, Good Advice, as a CIA agent ) are dumb and one-dimensional. It's because I'm an adult, and if you're going to remove the sex from an Agent 007 story so you can get a PG rating, then you'd better replace that human heat with something else human-based that's equally entertaining.
Spy Kids solved this problem with its terrific sister-brother team, who created dramatic tension and humor through their constant sibling interaction. Cody Banks, relying on a less-than-charismatic spindly kid as the lone lead, falls flat. The filmmakers would have made a better movie if they remembered that real-life teenage boys hardly ever do anything by themselves. Given a pal on whom to bounce off his bravado, Muniz would have been energized and Cody Banks could have sparkled.
I have to tell you that my opinion does not seem to be shared by the movie's target audience. The tweens I talked to on the way out of the theater were ebullient in their admiration for the flick.
"The actors were great," enthused one perky ponytailer. "Hilary Duff is cool and stuff!"
The young fan's brother was equally positive: "Great action -- I loved the car scene."
And with that I will agree -- the opening sequence, in which Muniz races on his skateboard to save a runaway car driven by a reckless baby -- is fantastic. My advice to adults? Settle the kids into their seats, catch the previews and the first few minutes of the movie, then take yourself and a good book out to the lobby and wait.