Since I am not a film snob, I can get on board with the basic premise of Agent Cody Banks. The CIA has been secretly training a select group of teenagers to act as agents when the need arises. And, of course, the need arises, and almost-sixteen-year-old Cody Banks, played by Frankie Muniz, is asked to serve his country.
Munizís task is to get to know Natalie Connors, played by Hilary Duff, and to secure an invitation to her birthday party, thereby gaining access to her house. Her father is a world-renowned scientist whose skills have been commandeered by an evil organization, et cetera. Okay, so itís not terribly original. It doesnít have to be. It doesnít exist for the sake of creativity. It exists for the beautiful idea that a dorky teenager can kick some butt when the time comes, whether itís school bully butt or techno-terrorist butt. Oh, and also to show off some very nice Bond, Jr, gadgets. Those are fun, too.
This movie, while not likely to show up on anyoneís list of ďFilms that Should Have Won the Oscar,Ē has something for everyone. Frankie Muniz is simply adorable, and does a good job with the role of Cody Banks. Heís dropped some of that ďwhy me?Ē angst of Malcolm in the Middle, and he comes across much more confident and willing to do what needs to be done (see above re: butt kicking). After all, this character isnít a lost-in-the-shuffle unappreciated brother. This guy is a secret agent, and he claims the power. Itís a very appealing performance.
For daddies forced to sit through yet another viewing of the DVD, the eye candy on the menu is Angie Harmon, whom my husband assures me is the only reason to watch the film. Angie Harmon has had moments of fine acting; she always did well on Law and Order, and she was very compelling in The Susan Wilson Story, about the lady whose creepy neighbor was watching her on video. She was great in that. She is not great in this.
I cannot fathom why she allowed herself to be treated the way she is treated in this film, or what director Harald Zwart was thinking when he showcased her very deep cleavage in every scene. The woman is supposed to be a CIA agent in charge of a very sensitive international investigation, and Iím supposed to believe she shows up to work in a red leather jacket unzipped to where her bra would be visible if she were wearing one? My sweetie is allowed to look at Angie Harmon all he wants, but I was offended by the sexist treatment of the one significant female adult in the movie. Of course, she still saves the world in the end, along with young Cody, but she could do it just as well in a more professional-looking outfit.
Deserving of mention are Hilary Duff, in a straightforward and sweet portrayal of the scientistís daughter, and Cynthia Stevenson and Daniel Roebuck as Codyís affectionate but clueless parents. Darrell Hammond is as amusing as always as the CIA scientist charged with outfitting Cody with the seriously ďdopeĒ items heíll need to carry out his mission. However, much of the acting is well over the top in this film, and itís a shame to see the waste of talents such as Arnold Vosloo and Ian McShane in parts that are little better than cartoon characters.
Overall, though, itís an enjoyable movie that I can watch with my kids. Best scene: Cody takes down the snobs at the swanky birthday party. Yes, I know itís a double doing the martial arts, yes, I know no real undercover agent would blow his cover like that. Whatever. Thatís what the film is all about, and itís thoroughly fun.