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'CODY BANKS' SEQUEL SELF-DESTRUCTS.

Byline: Valerie Kuklenski Staff Writer

THEY ARE EVIL and they must be stopped.

They being studio production executives who gleefully greenlight a sequel to an OK kid-targeted adventure movie just because they are blinded by flashing dollar signs.

Case in point: ``Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London.'' Its predecessor, last year's ``Agent Cody Banks,'' starred Frankie Muniz as a teenager recruited by the CIA and then sent on his first assignment: Cozy up to a certain adorable girl (played by Hilary Duff) to learn what her scientist dad is up to with nano-technology and thwart a villain's plan to use it for evil.

One angle of the story gave it a certain charm: Cody, a pretty sharp agent, remained completely inept when it came to dealing with the opposite sex. How could he do his job when he could barely stammer ``Hi''?

Now Cody is back, and he's a smooth 16-year-old, a seasoned pro among all the kid agents and no longer a dithering idiot in the presence of a pretty girl. But neither he nor his techno-toys are as slick as James Bond and his gear (except for those exploding Mentos candies), so what's the point of making this movie?

It opens in a potentially interesting setting, the back-woods training camp for junior agents, but director Kevin Allen has passed up opportunities for sight gags and fun action in exchange for icky dialogue by screenwriter Don Rhymer (who shares blame for the story with Harald Zwart and Dylan Sellers).

The obviously twisted camp director Diaz (Keith Allen) flees the camp one night, having enlisted Cody and the other kids to aid him in what he says is a drill. Turns out the agency has determined Diaz is up to no good, and now that he has escaped, it's up to Cody to track him down.

Cody is dispatched to London and teamed with Derek (Anthony Anderson), a CIA agent on probation for fouling up an earlier assignment. They're trying to find innovative mind-control equipment and keep Diaz from using it on world leaders gathering there for a G7 summit. (Yes, the term ``G7'' is used in a family movie script, and it's not in a bingo game.)

Diaz is in cahoots with Kenworth (James Faulkner), the scientist working on the mind-control gear. Cody is posing as a clarinet prodigy in an international youth orchestra hosted by Mrs. Kenworth (Anna Chancellor).

Diaz is angry because after 20 years with the agency he is in charge of junior agents when he had hoped for the director's job. So he decides to take out his frustrations on the entire world by implanting Kenworth's microchips in the teeth of the U.S. president and other leaders and making them do his bidding.

So the bad guys here are a Brit and an American. Hmmmm. And one of the diversionary tactics involves the youth orchestra breaking into a ripping rendition of Edwin Starr's 1970 hit ``War'' (``What is it good for? Absolutely nothin'!'') during a dinner concert for the world leaders. Hmmmm. And the kid agents are worried about the president's mind coming under the control of very bad influences, thereby allowing him to lead the world into chaos. Hmmmm.

Did I mention that Madonna is an executive producer on it?

Muniz, who was likable in the first film, plays the role now as if he is ever-mindful that he has outgrown it. He and Anderson have so little chemistry that they might as well have played all their scenes in separate rooms.

Here's hoping MGM realizes that the Cody Banks premise has run its course. If they don't believe it, then somebody should plaster one of the CIA's exploding Mentos on the laptop of any screenwriter now brainstorming ``Agent Cody Banks 3.''

Valerie Kuklenski, (818) 713-3750

valerie.kuklenski(at)dailynews.com

AGENT CODY BANKS 2: DESTINATION LONDON - One star

(PG: action violence, crude humor)

Starring: Frankie Muniz, Anthony Anderson, Hannah Spearritt, Keith Allen, James Faulkner.

Director: Kevin Allen.

Running time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Playing: Wide release.

In a nutshell: One sequel in the ``Agent Cody Banks'' franchise, about a teenage CIA agent, is one too many.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Anthony Anderson, left, and Frankie Muniz meet awkwardly, then eventually join forces, in ``Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 12, 2004
Words:717
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