AgentCodyBanks2coverGrade: C+/B-
Entire family: Yes, but . . .
2004, 100 min., Color
Olive Films
Rated PG for action violence and some crude humor
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: C-
Amazon link

For whatever reason, most sequels aren’t as good as the original, but it’s pretty clear what happened with Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004). Somebody looked at the demographics and told the studio that they could draw a bigger audience by pandering to a younger crowd.

The original Agent Cody Banks (2003) played like a Bond film with a teenager as 007, plucked from high school and dropped into an adult world. It was an action movie first, with tongue-in-cheek humor and the kind of innuendo Bond fans had come to expect, even if it was scaled down to teen angst level. But Agent Cody Banks 2 plays more like a Disney Channel movie deliberately dialed down a couple of notches and pitched at children instead of a general family audience.

AgentCodyBanks2screen1The tone is a dead giveaway. Agent Cody Banks had that wink-wink spy vibe that felt like Agent James Bond Jr., and the plot was fast-paced and fluid. Agent Cody Banks 2 feels fragmented and is so populated with over-the-top ridiculous adult characters, ala Disney Channel and Nickelodeon TV sitcoms, that satire and parody give way to mind-numbing silliness. But it’s clear that the studio chose this route because they also added sequences involving a horde of younger actors—as with a near-superfluous opening scene that spotlights the spy camp Cody is trained at.

The producers decided that this time, Banks, though still only 16 years old, would be a self-assured “adult” in a world of children. But take away Banks’ skateboard and the half-kid/half-adult world that it represents, and he’s about as fun to watch as a rush-hour commuter. Instead of being the least likely agent to be given an assignment, this time Banks is the best at everything, idolized by all the young agents at the secret Kamp Woody training grounds. But an underdog is far more interesting than a top dog, and Muniz doesn’t seem to know how to play a straight secret agent instead of a slightly bumbling one. Martial arts and fighting have replaced all but a few of the fun gizmos, and the tired plot is right out of Spy Kids 3-D—just another tale of a rogue trying to achieve world domination through mind control.

AgentCodyBanks2screen2In the opening, Banks unwittingly helps his wacko camp director escape an “assault drill” which was really a legitimate capture attempt. Victor Diaz (Keith Allen) has half the technology to pull off a mind-control scheme, while the other half is possessed by Lord Kenworth (James Faulkner), whose momentary front is a snooty summer haven for the musically gifted—which, of course, gives the filmmakers an excuse to cast another dozen or so young actors. Banks goes undercover as a clarinetist, and everyone in the British manor housing them all is an over-the-top caricature, including some of the musicians (who are actually part of a youth symphony). By playing it deliberately for laughs this time around, director Kevin Allen sacrifices suspense. The only caricatures who are remotely fun are an Indian girl who claims Banks as her “woodwind buddy,” and Derek (a more rotund Anthony Anderson than we see on Blackish), a CIA “handler” assigned to Banks. And even they can grate on you.

Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London isn’t a bad movie, but it’s more for children and adolescents than it is for the entire family.

Language: Pretty squeaky clean; he crude humor amounts to things like Banks’ little brother calling him a “whack job,” which parents can only hope their youngsters regard as a form of “wacko”
Sex: The first film was full of innuendo, but this one is as pure as the driven adolescent plot
Violence: Lots of martial arts fighting, but toned down violence compared to the first film—bloodless and not even close to excessive
Adult situations: Nothing, really
Takeaway: It’s a shame that the filmmakers didn’t stay the course and give us the same Cody Banks as a young James Bond that we met in the original Agent Cody Banks.