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Agent Cody Banks on DVD

Agent Cody Banks on DVD

Agent Cody Banks is the latest in a long line of James Bond spoof/ripoffs, some of which have been good and some of which have been not so good.

Just like the Bond films themselves, in fact....

From Derek Flint to Austin Powers we've seen a variety of spy protagonists, but most of the time, at least, the heros were always grown up - the Spy Kids movies being a notable exception, we believe (not having seen them).

So here we have a teenaged hero off to save the world, or at least that part of the world the screenplay concerns itself with.

Frankie Muniz stars, and as usual is very good, as Cody Banks, a high school kid recruited by the CIA as part of their new Junior Agent Training Program. The Corporation apparently feels that the pubescent set might be less suspicious than their usual spy offerings, and can therefore get away with stuff that regular agents cannot.

Another holdover from the Clinton regime's emasculating of the intelligence service, perhaps?

The evil this time revolves aroudn "Nanobots," which can be programmed to destroy just about anything you could want (we can think of several uses...) As one might expect, the bad guys want to use the Nanobots to destroy the USA.

Thank goodness there's Agent Cody Banks!

His assignment is to snuggle up to Natalie Connors (Hilary Duff), the Nanobot scientist's daughter, and thereby get close to the Nanobots.

Alas, while Cody may be in the age of raging hormones, he's by no means a babe magnet. He's tongue tied when trying to pitch woo, even to a girl in which he's merely remotely interested. So his first major challenge is learning how to be a ladykiller, without actually offing the chick.

The concept leaves plenty of room for the obligatory action sequences, as well as some welcome humor that's actually quite funny.

Frankie Muniz is a good actor. We've never seen "Malcolm in the Middle," but we have seen some of his other movies, and have been impressed with the kid's presence and thespian skill. Here, he does a good job of portraying the loser-cum-spy. Flavor of the month Hilary Duff (okay, maybe that isn't fair, but the hype sure makes her seem that way to us) is also good as Cody's target/love interest, and we actually hope she turns out to be more than the current pubescent babe of the week because she has a lot of talent.

Agent Cody Banks appears to be aimed obviously at the generation of its protagonists, and so old farts like this reviewer found some of it a tad, well, unbelievable. For example, Cody's parents seem like they mean well, but they're actually a couple of dunces who have no clue what's going on in their son's life. Perhaps most Hollywood parents are actually like this, but not responsible parents where we come from.

The special edition DVD is very good and if we wore hats we'd take them off to MGM for doing it right.

For example, the studio has once again given audiences both anamorphic widescreen and Pan&Scan versions on the same disc (on opposite sides in this case). PIcture quality is very good, though a bit soft and with a few instances of grain. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and is a tad disappointing. Surround is used quite a bit, particularly during action scenes (where it works best), but many of the sound effects (i.e. explosions) sound somehwat muffled, almost as if the sound was merely scooped from a sound effects library that was originally recorded in mono. It doesn't really get in the way of the fun, however.

And there's a good selection of extras, too. First up is a running commentary featuring director Harold Zwart, Frankie Muniz and Angie Harmon; they seem to have fun but the commentary itself isn't really full of meat. You also get a "Director's Diary," which is nice though we would have liked to see more of it. There's some good "making-of" stuff, but it isn't as in-depth as we'd have liked.

You also get a series of featurettes: "Frankie Muniz Going Big," "How to Talk to Girls," and "Cool Makeup Tricks by Hilary Duff." All are quite short, but fun nonetheless. "Developing Cody Banks," "Posting Cody Banks" and "Creating Cody's World" focus on various aspects of production.

There are also some deleted scenes, outtakes, storyboard-to-film comparisons, stunt footage, and a look at the inevitable sequel.

Agent Cody Banks, from MGM Home Video
102 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible)/Pan&Scan, Dolby Diital 5.1 surround
Starring Frankie Muniz, Hilary Duff, Angie Harmon, Keith David
Produced by Dylan Sellers
Writen by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Larry Karaszewski, Directed by Haraold Zwart.

Agent Cody Banks 2

Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London on DVD

The first Cody Banks was a pretty good, though lightweight, teen spy flick (is that a new genre?) and since it made some money it seems inevitable that a sequel would be made.

And it was. But as with so many sequels, this one doesn’t recapture the supposed magic of the first one – though on the other hand it’s entertaining enough.

Frankie Muniz is back as the title character, this time sent on a mission to Jolly Olde to track down a rogue agent with a mind-control microchip. Banks’ cover story is that he’s a musical prodigy taking part in a big concert event so he can get close to the only person who can make the microchip work.

Along the way he hooks up with a screwup agent (Anthony Anderson) and a young British operative (Hannah Spearritt).

Back as Cody’s clueless but insufferably nice parents are Cynthia Stevenson and Daniel Roebuck. Keith David is also on hand as the head of the CIA.

The story’s lightweight but at least it doesn’t insult the intelligence too much and the cast, particularly Muniz and Spearritt, are likeable and turn in good performances. Never mind the ludicrousness of an intelligence agency needing teenagers to do its work in an age of international terrorism…

The DVD’s pretty good, too. MGM has released it with both anamorphic widescreen and pan&scan versions on opposite sides of the same disc, rather than forcing consumers to choose between one aspect ratio and the other. This is the way we like it, since it gives consumers a break. The picture quality is fine; the image is sharp and bright and the colors are rich.

Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround it’s very good, nice and dynamic with fairly good use of the surrounds. Not a home theater tour de force, mind you, but on the other hand neither is the film itself.

Extras include the kiddie-oriented visual cast commentary, where Muniz, Anderson and Spearritt pause the film and pop up on screen to talk about it. It’s an interesting twist on the running commentary feature that’s so common.

There’s also an “Agent mode” interactive quiz that works similarly; the movie is interrupted periodically and you’re given multiple choice questions about such vital stuff as what a particular character may be wearing in a particular scene.

There’s also a short “making of” featurette, some deleted scenes and some extended scenes. You also get the trailer.

Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, from MGM Home Entertainment
100 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible)/Pan&Scan, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Starring Frankie Muniz, Anthony Anderson, Cynthia Stevenson, Daniel Roebuck and Keith David
Produced by Dylan Sellers,
Written by Don Rhymer, directed by Kevin Allen


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