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Agent Cody Banks clues into spirited fun in a London caper

Frankie Muniz returns as the young operative, who encounters more nefarious plots in this comic assignment.

March 12, 2004|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

Frankie Muniz's teenage spy is back for more high-spirited escapades in "Agent Cody Banks: Destination London," which is as ingenious and lively as the original film last year that introduced the Seattle high school student recruited by the CIA. By now Cody realizes he's on permanent call from the agency, which has sent him to a very special summer camp where he's just one of a large number of teens being trained by the CIA, a disturbing notion the filmmakers wisely don't give us time to ponder.

When parents arrive on visiting day, Kamp Woody looks like any other summer camp, but that's because with the push of various buttons all its elaborate military and espionage hardware becomes swiftly hidden: one minute girls are working at intricate electronic panels, the next they're weaving baskets, the panels having swiftly flipped.

The tough-guy camp commander, Diaz (Keith Allen), isn't kidding when he instructs his students to trust no one -- "not even me."

Shortly thereafter, Diaz, a 20-year CIA veteran, defects with mind control software. The agency has intelligence revealing that Diaz intends to link up with Lord Kenworth (James Faulkner), a British industrialist who has invented a Frankensteinian device that, once attached to the head of his own dog, turns the animal into a piano-playing pooch.

Kenworth can control bodies, Diaz can control minds, and together these two baddies could rule the world. All they have to do is anesthetize their intended targets and implant a microchip by which they will be able to control his or her thoughts and movements.

Cody is dispatched to London as a member of the International Youth Symphony, which just happens to be sponsored by the sweetly obtuse Lady Kenworth (Anna Chancellor). The young musicians will be staying at the Kenworth estate, a vast and glorious Victorian Gothic pile outside London, in preparation for performing at a Buckingham Palace banquet, where Queen Elizabeth II will be hosting a summit of world leaders -- at which Lord and Lady Kenworth will be guests. Clearly, Cody has got to stop Diaz and the dastardly nobleman.

As is obvious, this is an elaborate setup, but director Kevin Allen and his writers miss no opportunities for mining humor in all the film's fast-moving twists and turns. Grand heart-of-London settings and a clutch of terrific British comedians in the supporting cast make for a handsome, often hilarious comedy-adventure that strikes a deft balance of humor and action.

Never mind the unlikelihood that the CIA would send over a young agent, Derek (Anthony Anderson), on probation as Cody's handler when the fate of the world is at stake. It's a good thing, for Derek is a fun-loving, freewheeling presence who for all his reckless rambunctiousness is just as resourceful and quick-thinking as Cody. Hannah Spearritt's pretty blond Emily, a member of the orchestra, captures Cody's attention, but at first it doesn't look as if they'll have much time to get acquainted. Keith David reprises his role as the forceful head of the CIA.

When so much of what passes for comedy these days is crass and heavy-handed, it's gratifying to discover something as blithe-spirited as the Agent Cody Banks movies and an actor as likably unpretentious as the gifted Frankie Muniz.


'Agent Cody Banks: Destination London'

MPAA rating: PG, for action violence and some crude humor

Times guidelines: Suitable family fare

Frankie Muniz...Cody Banks

Anthony Anderson...Derek

Hannah Spearritt...Emily

Keith Allen...Diaz

James Faulkner...Lord Kenworth

An MGM presentation of a Bob Yari-Maverick Films-Dylan Sellers production. Director Kevin Allen. Producers Guy Oseary, David C. Glasser, Bob Yari, David Nicksay, Dylan Sellers. Executive producers Madonna, Jason Alexander, Jennifer Birchfield-Eick, Kerry David, Danny Gold, Michael Jackman, Andreas Klein, Mark Morgan. Screenplay by Don Rhymer from a story by Harald Zwart & Dylan Sellers and Don Rhymer and based on characters created by Jeffrey Jurgensen. Cinematographer Denis Crossan. Editor Andrew MacRitchie. Music Mark Thomas. Costumes Steven Noble. Production designer Richard Holland. Supervising art director Peter Wenham. Art directors Jason Knox-Johnston, Simon Bowles, Philip Elton. Set decorator Sara Wan. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

In general release.

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