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Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London

(2004)  1/2 Pg
99 min. MGM/UA. Director: Kevin Allen. Cast: Frankie Muniz, Anthony Anderson, Hannah Spearritt, Cynthia Stevenson, Daniel Roebuck.

The classic TV spy series Get Smart replaced logic with comic absurdity. Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London has no virtues to fill its yawning gaps of logic. Though the movie stars Frankie Muniz (of TV's Malcolm in the Middle), who's now in his late teens, the insipid Agent Cody Banks 2 is pitched well below teens, to kids half Muniz's age. Besides, the once-distinctive Muniz--whose career path closely resembles that of '80s child star Fred Savage--has grown out of his precocious novelty; the poor guy's obviously counting his numbered days, taking the money and running with weak movies like this one.

Norwegian director Harald Zwart, who directed the original Agent Cody Banks, quit the sequel over a budgetary argument with the studio. So Welsh director Kevin Allen (Twin Town, The Big Tease) picked up the inauspicious reins of this festering franchise. Agent Cody Banks was hardly a great film, but this sequel seems especially pointless. As Allen parades Muniz around London locations (the sole amusement for us over-twelves), my mind drifted off to the 1985 telefilm Family Ties Vacation, in which a young Michael J. Fox hung around the Thames for ninety minutes.

The plot has something to do with Banks going undercover at an international music school to put the kibosh on a mind-control device. Bubble-headed Hilary Duff has been mercifully replaced with the merely bland Hannah Spearritt--twenty-one playing sixteen--as Banks's chaste love interest (or presumable love interest: by the time this junior James Bond makes a half-hearted move, he gets a just-friends peck on the cheek). This time, his handler is not the lithe Angie Harmon, but the roly-poly Anthony Anderson, who emanates flop-sweat comic desperation as he tries and fails to riff with scrawny white kids in a PG-rated vein. Fans of Agent Cody Banks will be relieved to know that Cody's family (Cynthia Stevenson, Daniel Roebuck, and Connor Widdoes) returns for a couple of mirthless scenes.

Allen musters a sort of impressive London street chase around the midsection, and Muniz shows off a couple of limber kung fu kicks, but the been-there, done-that trio of bald baddies and shrill cultural characterizations make the movie unwatchable for audiences who are at all discriminating. The pint-sized agents at Camp Woody (is this a sex joke passing through from another movie?) look up to the great Cody Banks just as this film's only audience might. I can only assume, or fervently hope, that any further sequels will feature Cody's pre-teen brother and high-tail it straight to video.

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