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Agent Cody Banks 2

Unfortunately for everyone, agent Cody Banks is back. This time 'round, Cody's secret mission takes him to London, but not even this mini Bond's ride on London's Millennium Wheel can add sprightliness to this sluggish spy tale.


Things haven't changed much since we last saw teen spy Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz): His parents (Cynthia Stevenson and Daniel Roebuck) are still in the dark about what their now 16-year-old son does for a living and drop him off for the summer at Kamp Woody, which is really secret teen CIA training program. But it turns out the camp's director, Diaz (Keith Allen), is a rogue CIA agent who has stolen a top-secret mind-control device that he plans on individually implanting into the teeth of the world's leaders in order to rule the planet. When he escapes to London to begin his evil undertaking, Cody must pose as a student at an elite boarding school for musically gifted kids to get close to his target, who is in cahoots with the headmistress' husband. As if that was not enough, Cody also has to deal with his new ''handler,'' the clumsy buffoon Derek (Anthony Anderson), who keeps botching up their plans, all while keeping his identity a secret from the other students at school. Will he succeed in stopping the bad guys from taking over the world?


Poor Muniz. The Malcolm in the Middle star has fallen prey to studio execs who seem eager to jump on the teen spy bandwagon by riding on the coattails of Spy Kids' appeal and the modest success of its original film rather than churning out a decent PG flick. While Muniz is still charming as Cody, an adolescent wise beyond his years, his character comes across as a stick in the mud when paired with a slapstick character such as Anderson's Derek. In the first film, Muniz got to act like a kid, an inadequate teen smitten by his agency mentor Ronica, played by Angie Harmon. Here, none of the characters seem to have any common sense and Cody is forced to be the mature one. This switch sort of takes the fun and innocence out of it. And poor Anderson. The comedian is stuck in the role of the inept CIA reject whose disguises perpetuate every black stereotype imaginable, including a cook ''straight outta Compton'' and robe-wearing African. Hannah Spearritt, who plays Emily, a Scotland Yard agent also posing as a student, is the brightest addition to the cast but her role is almost marginal in this sequel.


Director Kevin Allen, who brought us the 2000 hairdressing comedy The Big Tease, delivers a teen actioner that mechanically plods through its formulaic script. The film has all the ingredients necessary for a delectable spy pic--cool gadgets, exciting chases, diabolical villains, covert hideouts--but the end product is as bland as kidney pie. While the original Agent Cody Banks had a sophisticated sense of humor to it, this sequel is clumsy and crass. Cody's awkwardness around the opposite sex in the original film, for example, was sweet. Here, the team of writers--Don Rhymer, Harald Zwart and Dylan Sellers--injects perverted overtones into the film that are just so wrong. Take ''Kamp Woody,'' bandleader Mr. Jerksalot, the invariable references to Cody's instrument and the boatload of phallic-looking weapons, including a retainer that can act as a receiver with proper tongue manipulation or Diaz's giant charged flashlight. For viewers who somehow missed the writers' not-so-clever nuances, there is plenty of unoriginal dialogue to roll your eyes at, including the Brit gem, ''Don't get your knickers in a twist.''

Bottom Line

The boring and at times offensive Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London lacks the cleverness and charm of its predecessor. This is one franchise that should be grounded before it takes off for any more international forays.