Directed by: Kevin Allen
Starring: Frankie Muniz, Anthony Anderson, Hannah Spearrit, Keith Allen
"It's not as bad as you'd expect," the movie-theater staffer told me as I went in to see Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London. His prediction turned out to be true: Unlike most sequels, Destination London is better than the first Agent Cody Banks outing. Alas, that isn't saying much.
Sixteen-year-old Seattle sophomore Cody Banks (19-year-old Frankie Muniz, TV's Malcolm in the Middle) belongs to a cadre of teenage CIA agents that's so secret, even their parents don't know the extracurricular activities these darling adolescents are getting into. This summer, they're supposed to be at Kamp Woody, learning basketry and kayaking. In reality, it's a CIA-training camp, where the teens hone such skills as martial arts, skyscraper climbing, computer hacking and maneuvering through the forest in bubble-bottom all-terrain vehicles.
The most talented agent is skinny Cody Banks, who's a hero to his camp buddies because not only is he a good spy, but he's a good kid, too. After he wins a grueling outdoors spy game, Cody shakes the hand of his competitor. The crazy camp counselor, Diaz (Keith Allen, The Others), is furious. "Trust no one!" he yells.
Anyone who speaks such dastardly words is bound to be a dastard. So it's no surprise to Cody that the camp counselor turns out to be a CIA bad guy. And off our young secret agent must go to London to keep evil geniuses from implanting mind-control devices into cavities in the teeth of our world leaders -- who are all meeting at a conference at Buckingham Palace.
Cody poses as an American musical genius attending a select teenage conservatory located in a huge English castle. The problem is, Cody doesn't really play the clarinet, so he's constantly having to use his wits to avoid blowing his cover. When he arrives in London, a wonderfully weird scientist gives Cody lots of super-cool secret weapons, including a new clarinet that plays "Flight of the Bumblebee."
Cody's London handler is CIA-bumbler Derek, played by Anthony Anderson (Cradle to the Grave). Following their escapades, you get to see terrific location shots of London. The musical prodigies (who are actually in a Welsh international youth orchestra) are delightfully charming, funny and likeable -- and MGM studios (responsible for Destination London) would be smart to make a whole movie based on these kids. Among the musicians is pretty Emily (pop singer Hannah Spearritt), who happens to be an English secret agent. She's definitely too old to provide love interest for the girl-shy Cody, but she's quite fetching in her black-leather spy outfits.
There's no blood in this movie, no sex and no real violence -- during the food fight in the castle dining room, no one even gets their feelings hurt. Every adult in Destination London is stupid -- which is probably why pre-teens will love the movie. On the other hand, most of the adults are British, which means they're slightly daft, wear cool clothes, have good manners and use the Queen's English -- which makes them, by and large, the most amusing adults in any pre-teen movie I've seen in ages.
-- reviewed by Marci Miller