Take Dad: Cody Banks wows big guys, too

Things to Do After School:

Find a date for the dance


Save the world

Obviously inspired by Spy Kids, Agent Cody Banks moves the young secret agent premise a step closer to reality, in part by shifting the hero to the north side of puberty, so– in addition to pop quizzes and popping zits– he has to worry about being popped by enemies of the free world.

Hey, all the good paper routes were taken.

The idea is that the CIA recruited (maybe Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is true!) 20 kids and put them through training disguised as summer camp, then let them resume normal life until they were needed.

The time comes for almost-16-year-old Seattleite Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz) when the father of local girl Natalie Connors (Hilary Duff) gets mixed up with an evil genius who wants to convert his peaceful invention into a device for world domination. Martin Donovan plays Dr. Connors. Ian McShane is bad Dr. Brinkman with Arnold Vosloo ("The Mummy") as his henchman, Molay.

Just about stealing the movie is Angie Harmon (Abbie Carmichael on Law & Order) as Ronica Miles, assigned by CIA Director Keith David to be Cody's "handler." With a Wonder Bra doing wonders for her, Ronica strides into the boys' locker room to put Cody to work. She's funny, she's sexy, and she kicks ass like all three of Charlie's Angels rolled into one. While the rest of Agent Cody Banks is a young man's fantasy she turns it into a fantasy for older boys– up to, say, 90. The character deserves her own spinoff.

Now, the Codester can spew facts like an encyclopedia and do physical feats Clark Kent would envy, but when he tries to talk to a girl he finds attractive, he gets so tongue-tied she thinks he's in Special Ed. In the real world, the CIA would get Cody laid in hopes of overcoming his shyness, but this being a PG movie (a heavy-on-violence PG movie) they assemble a "team of experts" to coach him with amusingly contradictory, uniformly useless advice.

Being a secret agent, Cody can't tell his parents (Cynthia Stevenson, Daniel Roebuck) or precocious 10-year-old brother (Connor Widdows, underused) about his activities. That creates some amusing sit(com)uations, as when what looks like the entire CIA does Cody's household chores to give him time for his mission. (They promise to do his homework, too, but that dodgy area isn't gone into.)

The spy stuff is clich├ęd and silly, but a serviceable excuse to hold the movie together. (The plot works better than it did last year in The Tuxedo.) Martial arts fights are surprisingly well put together, especially considering the disappointing nature of the first action sequence. There's not a single believable shot as Cody chases a runaway car down a hill on his skateboard, and the editing doesn't help.

Driving cool cars (and getting a license at 15), playing with awesome toys, hanging with a hot chick and getting (not in the Biblical sense) the girl– what more could a teenage boy fantasize about?

Agent Cody Banks is a delight for kids and has guilty pleasure potential for adults.