Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London Review
After a few hit and miss attempts to make it in the movies, Frankie Muniz, the affable star of TV’s Malcolm in the Middle seemed to be onto a winner with Agent Cody Banks, the story of a teenage kid recruited by the CIA as a junior agent. It had some entertaining action sequences, a Bond style villain’s lair finale, a near-perfect theme tune, and a couple of bad guys in Arnold Vosloo and Ian McShane who you felt could have upped their game a bit and given the real James Bond a run for his money. Certainly it was a kid’s film, but it was just as much a “homage” to Bond as it was a spoof.
Just a year later comes the inevitable sequel, in Destination London. But this time around the producers decided they wanted to emphasise the comedy, so out goes Cody’s sexy but serious handler played by Angie Harmon, to be replaced by the bumbling and “comic” Anthony Anderson. Out goes James Bond style action sequences and in come food fights, politicians under mind control kicking each other up the backside, and the Queen dancing to pop music.
Cody Banks 2 picks up at the covert summer camp where the kids are really being taught agent skills, and where Cody is now regarded as a hero to the other kids. Thinking that it is just an exercise, Cody helps his teacher Diaz (Keith Allen) evade capture from senior CIA agents; however he has really absconded with a dangerous mind control device. The trail leads to London, where Cody is sent undercover as a musician in an international youth orchestra (courtesy of a clarinet that plays itself). Aided by his new handler Derek (Anthony Anderson) and fellow musician Emily (Hannah Spearitt) – who is of course more than she seems – he has to track down Diaz and his associates before the mind control device can be put to nefarious use.
If the first film generally got things right, why did this one get it so wrong? Where the first film got the balance of action and comedy right, that’s all thrown away here, and it’s played way too much for cheap laughs, and pitches at a much younger audience. Of course it is a kid’s movie, but whereas the first film could be enjoyed by everyone, in this one the comedy is much more little kiddie orientated, with the exception of one cocaine related joke, frankly astonishing to be included in a movie like this. We can’t expect a watertight plot – even the real Bond films don’t have those – but why would someone known to the principal villain be sent in undercover? And once again we are in “Merrie Olde England”, a strange place that exists only in the mind of Hollywood (though at least the fog has gone these days). It’s populated by upper class twits and bumbling nobility, who all live in huge stately homes located just minutes from the very centre of London. Actually, anyone who knows London at all will be amused by the way they have converted the Lloyds Building into “Scotland Yard” and (via some shaky CG) turned the Tate Modern into the villain’s headquarters. This is all populated by the usual suspects of British comic actors, so Paul Kaye appears as an “eccentric” Q-type character, Mark Williams plays a police officer, and Anna Chancellor as the posh English woman is clearly making a bad habit of this, only just having appeared in a very similar role in the Amanda Bynes vehicle What A Girl Wants. Hannah Spearitt is OK as Emily, though in reality she’s just being, well, Hannah from the S Club TV shows.
It’s difficult to know where this franchise can go now, if anywhere. The humour this time is more childish than the first, yet Muniz himself is now no longer a child. After a fun first entry in this series this is a major step backwards. Very small children might like it; for everyone else it's a big disappointment.