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Agent Cody Banks Review

By Shawn McKenzie 03/14/2003

I am rooting for Frankie Muniz.  I really like him on the FOX series “Malcolm in the Middle” and I want to see him become big in the movies.  I think his new leading role in this movie, Agent Cody Banks, might be a small step in the right direction.  That observation isn’t based solely on my personal feelings for the movie though.


Dr. Albert Connors (Martin Donovan), a nanotechnology inventor, has invented something called nano-bots that can be pre-programmed to automatically consume their target.  He intended them to be able to confine oil spills, but an international super-villain, Brinkman (Ian McShane), and his henchman Francois Molay (Arnold Vosloo), have more evil plans for the bots.  He wants to use them to attack a range of missile installations, which will cripple the U.S. military.  The CIA gets Intel of this through a spy they had planted, and the CIA director (Keith David) realizes they have to take action to stop Brinkman.  His strategy is to get into the birthday party of Connors' teenage daughter, Natalie (Hilary Duff), to spy on the inventor.  He calls upon 15-year-old Cody Banks (Muniz), a junior agent with the CIA Development Program, Seattle division.  The director chooses Banks not only because he is the closest agent to the director, but because he is told Banks is great with the ladies.  Banks had been trained in covert summer camps, but his parents (Cynthia Stevenson and Daniel Robuck) and his younger brother, Alex (Connor Widdows), do not know his secret agent status.  He is an excellent agent physically, but socially, he sucks.  His mission is to get Natalie to fall for him so he will be invited to the party, but he stutters awkwardly around girls, especially Natalie.  His adult agent partner is Ronica Miles (Angie Harmon), who is the woman that initially contacts him about the mission and is the one who helps him all the way.  If Cody can get over his shyness around Natalie, he can save the world.


Muniz is a strong lead in what I personally think is a cheesy movie.  I say this because I thought Muniz was good, but I thought the movie was an inferior version of Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids movies.  While Spy Kids portrayed spies from some nameless agency, Agent Cody Banks specifically names the CIA.  Therefore, I thought some of the more outrageous gadgets looked a little out of place here.  I know this is supposed to be a kiddie comedy with an ode to James Bond, but it threw me off (maybe it was after having recently seen The Recruit that I had a different picture of the CIA.)  Also, I didn’t understand why both Duff and Harmon’s characters had to constantly wear cleavage-revealing clothes.  Believe me, I’m no prude, and I greatly appreciated the two good-looking women wearing the low-cut outfits, but like the gadgets, they seemed out of place here.


Aside from Muniz’s performance, they did get a couple other things right.  First, I was glad to see that Banks was awkward in the appropriate place.  It is natural for a 15-year-old boy to be shy around girls, but I was afraid they were going to make him also ineffective with his fighting and spy skills for comedic reasons.  Fortunately, they didn’t do that.  Second, and most important, the kids in the audience loved it.  I saw the movie at a screening with a bunch of kids, and it seemed like their consensus was that the movie was good.  I confirmed that fact by asking a few of them what they thought of it.  They all liked it, and most of them liked it better than the Spy Kids movies.  This could just be fickle kid-talk, but I’ll take there word for it.  I don’t share their opinion though.

Agent Cody Banks is a good afternoon distraction for you to be able to take your kids, but if you think you are going to get the same fun ride that the Spy Kids movies gave, you will be suffering.  I think Muniz is on the right track, but let’s hope he gets better material next time.  “Malcolm in the Middle” won’t last forever you know.


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