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The secret agent actioner Stormbreaker is definitely more James Bond for tweens than Nickelodeon fluff like Agent Cody Banks. Maybe it has something to do with the British accents.


Or maybe it's because there's a really cute teenage super spy in it. Meet Alex Rider (Alex Pettyfer), said cutie who lives with his uncle Ian (Ewan McGregor), a boring bank manager. Or is he? After Ian mysteriously disappears, Alex soon learns his uncle was a spy for Britain's secret intelligence service MI6 and, unbeknownst to Alex, has been secretly training him—scuba diving, mountaineering, martial arts as well as knowing several languages—so Alex can take up the family business. Suddenly, Alex's whole world is turned upside down. He is immediately recruited by Mr. Blunt (Bill Nighy) to go after billionaire Darrius Sayle (Mickey Rourke), who created a mega-computer, Stormbreaker, which could bring about the end of the world. With the help of his housekeeper Jack Starbright (Alicia Silverstone) and his friend Sabina Pleasure (Sarah Bolger), Alex takes Sayle head-on in a dangerous race against time to stop the evil plan. No big whoop.


Newcomer Pettyfer—who apparently beat out over 500 teenagers to win the role of Alex Rider—does an admirable first attempt, if a tad stiff. He's got some big shoes to fill, bringing to life a character beloved by fans of the best-selling series by novelist Anthony Horowitz, but he has more than enough potential to hone those skills. And with his wind-swept blonde hair, dreamy eyes and lilting British accent, he should be a surefire hit with tweens of the female persuasion. The rest of the colorful cast fits in nicely. Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest), with all his delightful little ticks, is fun as Mr. Blunt—the "M," as it were, of the spy organization—and Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) as his second in command, Mrs. Jones. Silverstone, who was once Clueless but now grown up, is surprisingly quirky as the devoted housekeeper, while Rourke is sufficiently slimy as the villain. Then there's a small laundry list of character actors who add to the proceedings, including Missi Pyle (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Sayle's dominatrix-esque paramour, and Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings' Gollum AND King Kong) as Sayle's severely scarred, grunting henchman. Wonder if Serkis will ever get to play someone normal for once.


British director Geoffrey Sax (White Noise) keeps to the spirit of the books, something author Anthony Horowitz was adamant about before finding the right people to adapt his stories. No big studio feel here, but there is plenty of action—motorcycle racing, dangling from tall buildings and even a chase on horseback. There are also plenty of cool gadgets, all things a typical teenager might have, such as a super-charged PDA. And numerous and nefarious ways to dispose of our young hero. At one point, Alex finds himself in a water tank with a giant jellyfish, who won't necessarily attack, but if Alex gets tired of treading water and drifts into the marine invertebrate—well, you get the picture. This kind of standard James Bond fare reminds me of Dr. Evil, who says in the first Austin Powers, "No, no, no, I'm going to leave them alone and not actually witness them dying, I'm just gonna assume it all went to plan. What?" Thankfully, Stormbreaker doesn't take itself too seriously, but rather has fun with the genre and introduces a new young hunk to make the young girls swoon.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.