Agent Cody Banks (2003)

Genres - Children's/Family, Spy Film  |   Sub-Genres - Family-Oriented Adventure, Spy Comedy  |   Release Date - Mar 14, 2003 (USA)  |   Run Time - 102 min.  |   Countries - Canada , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

You'd expect the telephoto sunglasses. You'd expect the ipod that functions as a transceiver. You'd definitely expect the rocket-powered snowboard. But would you expect Agent Cody Banks to be so funny? Almost every scene is punctuated by at least a light chuckle -- particularly the team of government scientists showing Cody how to talk to girls -- and it's just one of several ways this teen spy movie goes beyond what's expected. Many of the laughs come from an unlikely source: Angie Harmon, who had not previously displayed such a fitness for comedy. Harmon takes the shortcomings of her character -- she's presented as a fantasy goddess who drops the jaws of teenage boys -- and mines them for all the irony they're worth, making for an amusing and compelling mentor/partner for Cody. The smart casting continues to a duo of maniacal villains, played by Ian McShane and Arnold Vosloo, who relish the chance to make menace. And of course Frankie Muniz has been groomed to play this role, having cut his teeth on the series Malcolm in the Middle, where he also played a child prodigy. Agent Cody Banks makes the wise decision to assume Cody has already been trained, letting the film get straight into some punchy set pieces. He doesn't need to start out as a bumbling spy because he's got plenty of social bumbling to do, as he tries to cozy up to the daughter (Hilary Duff) of the scientist who's under the villains' thumb. Cody Banks also works better because it never goes outlandish. It's almost conceivable that the CIA would employ teens as agents, because of the unique assets they bring to particular missions. The film is shot well, and Harald Zwart's lively direction makes it a consistent pleasure. It's no surprise they made a sequel.