Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz) is not your ordinary teenager. In fact he's a secret agent for the CIA recruited after requesting a spy kit by mail. Now a couple of years older, Cody and the rest of the junior agents are spending the summer at Camp Woody, a super secret training facility masquerading to their parents as a summer camp. Banks is one of the more promising agents and during a simulation he is given the task of protecting their leader Diaz (Keith Allen) from enemy attack. He succeeds and gets Diaz out to safety. What he doesn't know is that he's helped Diaz escape with a super secret piece of mind control software from an underground research facility. Recruited by The Director (Keith David), Banks is sent to London, England where he's to apprehend Diaz and the software before it falls into the wrong hands. His cover: a member of an international youth orchestra. The problem: Banks lied on his application and doesn't really play the clarinet. In London, he meets up with banished field agent Derek (Anthony Anderson), whose spy tactics are a bit extreme. He begins to infiltrate the enemy lair but runs into trouble given all the demands on the orchestra member's time. It's there where he meets Jenny (Hannah Sperritt), a fellow member whose interest also seems to lie elsewhere. Will Cody be able to recover the mind control software before it's utilized or will the world forever fall under the control of Diaz and his evil friends?
Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London is the follow up to 2003's Agent Cody Banks, a film which despite being critically lambasted managed to be a moderate hit for MGM. The studio, which has seen more misses than hits in recent years, follows their recent trend of milking their popular properties for all they're worth and brings back 00-Junior to the screen. I never saw the first film despite wanting to, as for whatever reason I just never had a chance to fit it into my busy schedule. So Destination London was my first introduction to the world of Cody Banks and unfortunately it wasn't a positive one.
Destination London is a real mess of a film. The screenplay by Don Ryhmer is full of holes and for the most part the mission is rather boring. Nothing really happens to young Cody. Sure he has to escape, evade, and outsmart the villains, but it's lacking something that makes it fun. Aimed at a similar young audience as the Spy Kids films, this boring by-the-numbers story lacks everything that made those films so fun for audience members young and old. Banks has some gadgets, but they are rather lame and uninventive. Exploding breath mints, a retainer that doubles as a listening device, and a pen that shoots out a rip-cord is about as fancy as it gets. He doesn't get a spy car because he's too young to drive and instead has to be ferried around by Anthony Anderson in a rather pimped out but still rather plain and boring car. Director Kevin Allen, who seems to be a hired job, has no real flair for the screen. His direction is by-the-numbers and uninspired, and he often doesn't know what to do with Muniz other than to place him on the screen. The editing is rather lacking. Big and important moments seem to be missing as the film simply goes from one scene to another without any real conclusion or transition. The film's big ending, where they take down the villain, isn't exciting or particularly creative, despite a rather interesting musical selection which is something I'd usually give points for. Plain and simple, there is nothing memorable in this movie. Not the story, not the direction, and certainly not the mission. I'm all for smart kid movies, but this one is just plain dumb and really an insult to anyone in the audience.
Frankie Muniz is a guy that just has never impressed me. I've never been a fan of his TV show Malcolm in the Middle and his film roles have been limited. I did enjoy him in Big Fat Liar, an underrated kid comedy from a couple of years back, but to me he's just an ordinary child actor. Here as mini James Bond he doesn't do much to change my opinion. I didn't see him as a secret agent and I didn't even buy into his so-called charm. Instead of possessing the required spy skills, he just seemed to get lucky in his quest. I know this isn't James Bond, but he just didn't quite cut it as a spy. Anthony Anderson plays Cody's handler Derek. Anderson is a comedic actor that I like in most roles, but he seems to alternate between kid-oriented buddy comedies and the comedic sidekick in urban action movies. Anderson is toned down here compared to his last role in the dreadful My Baby's Daddy, a film which was not only racist and insulting but downright brutal. Given the kid-friendly nature of this script, Anderson has to play things rather clean. I prefer him in his more adult roles, but it's always nice to see the big guy on the screen. Trying to pull in the female audience from the first film this time around is Hannah Speeritt, making her first mainstream acting role. Speeritt is best known as Hannah from the MTV series S Club 7, and it's hard to get a gauge of her acting ability from her almost non-existent role. Although she does seem to serve a purpose, it's not apparent until the end of the film. Speeritt takes over for Hillary Duff in the female role in the movie and isn't likely to bring in the same audience that young Duff did. While I did get a kick out of seeing her on-screen, this won't be the case for most of the younger female audience who won't know who she is.
Another issue I'd like to discuss is the music in the film. In particular, the use of one recent chart topping song by rap artist Chingy. I'm speaking of the song "Right Thurr", a hip-hop song with some rather suggestive lyrics. Now I'm not about censorship in music or in film, but the suggestive nature of the lyrics of this song and its use in a film aimed primarily at younger audiences did trouble me. Sure, most of the audience won't know what the lyrics "I Love it when you do me right thurr" mean, but to even include such a song in a film aimed at kids is a bit troubling. Sure the song is all over the radio airwaves, but parents can change the dial. Here they are stuck with about 1 minute of the chorus in constant repeat. Not a huge issue, but something that came to mind during the viewing of this otherwise less-than-memorable piece of moviemaking.
Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London is a movie that just didn't work for me. I can see how younger audiences might enjoy it, but I'm not sure how successful it will be. On my way out of the early Saturday morning screening, I had the opportunity to overhear kids talking about it, and the majority of the comments were it wasn't as good as the first. Plagued by a number of plot holes, a rather boring and ordinary mission that could have been solved in 20 minutes of a TV series, and rather dull and uninspired performances by everyone in the cast, this just isn't anything more than an ordinary effort. Here's hoping MGM realizes that Cody Banks isn't the franchise they thought it was and retires the young secret agent before it's too late. At nearly 95 minutes, this movie feels much longer. As much as I wanted Cody Banks 2 to be a fun time at the movies, it wasn't and as such I can't recommend it.
Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with ShowbizMonkeys.com, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.