"Agent Cody Banks"

Frankie Muniz and Hilary Duff star in 'Agent Cody Banks.' (MGM)
"Agent Cody Banks" isn't all that bad, but it's not all that good either. There is little imagination. It is a stock movie with some popular teenage stars drawing in kids.

"Agent Cody Banks" is marketed and positioned to draw in that targeted niche of the movie-going public: kids. It tells the story of Cody Banks, a typical 15-year-old boy who has problems talking to girls. But Cody has a secret: He is an agent for the CIA. While he has being going to summer camp, he has been trained to be a CIA operative.   

This movie takes the formula of the James Bond films and places it in the context of a teenager's world. Cody has a handler, Veronica Miles, who is eye candy for the dads who take the kids out for a movie. It has Hilary Duff, of Disney's "Lizzie McGuire" TV show, as eye candy for the pre-teen boys.   

And there is Cody, Frankie Muniz, who is eye candy for pre-teen girls. The movie tries to be all things to all people. There is extreme action that includes skateboard rescues and a snowboard chase. Things blow up and people are placed in great peril. This surely acts to engage its demographic group, which loves this kind of stunt work.   

Cody is assigned to get close to Hilary Duff's character, Natalie Connors. Her father is a scientist who is developing Nanobot technology that can work to stop oil spills, but is wanted by an evil madman to destroy the U.S. nuclear missile system. These Nanobots remind one of the termites in the old Tex Avery cartoons that can eat anything and do. 

The movie works at a feverish pace to bring together all the elements of Cody's problems as a teenager and his skills as an agent. It has been said that in order to enjoy movies you must be willing to suspend a measure of disbelief. "Agent Cody Banks" makes us do a lot of suspension in order to swallow much of its premise.  

But the movie is in the marketplace to make money. And it will. My son thought it was great and did not want it to end. I sat there praying for the credits to roll. 

"Agent Cody Banks" isn't all that bad, but it's not all that good either. There is little imagination. It is a stock movie with some popular teenage stars drawing in kids, like my son, who really do not know what a good movie is yet. 

Of this genre's current crop, the "Spy Kids" series is far superior. Robert Rodriguez crafted two wonderfully inventive movies that not only entertain the kids, but also hold Mom and Dad's attention. Both of these movies get my highest recommendation. 

A final word of warning to parents taking their kids to this movie: There is a scene at the end that will be very intense for kids under the age of 10. It shows a very gruesome death and may be too much for the younger set. 

Mike Parnell is pastor of Burgaw Baptist Church in Burgaw, N.C. 

MPAA Rating: PG for action violence, mild language and some sensual content 

Director: Harald Zwart 

Writers: Zack Stentz, Ashley Miller, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski   

Cast: Cody Banks: Frankie Muniz; Natalie Connors: Hilary Duff; Veronica Miles: Angie Harmon; Mrs. Banks: Cynthia Stevenson; Mr. Banks: Daniel Roebuck

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