Agent Cody Banks
Being that MGM has little going for it outside of the enduringly popular James Bond franchise, the only thing surprising about the Bond Jr. wannabe Agent Cody Banks (2003) is that it took so long for them to make it. Happily, it's a competently executed action/comedy in the mold of a modernized Matt Helm flick that's diverting enough for adults, while succeeding adroitly as a piece of vicarious wish-fulfillment for daydreaming adolescents who've created, as children are so wont to do, a secret world of heroism that revolves solely around them. The filmmakers might've been making too big a concession to the broad comedy element by casting puberty-stricken Frankie Muniz from "Malcolm in the Middle" as their lead, but his awkwardness is endearing enough to carry the picture. The story has rookie agent Banks being called in for his first mission he's already undergone training at a summer camp run as a clandestine training facility by the C.I.A. where it's uncomfortably suggested that the kids are essentially brainwashed which requires him to get close to Natalie Connors (Hilary Duff), the teenage daughter of a brilliant scientist (Martin Donovan) being forced by the nefarious E.R.I.S. (a reference to the Greek god of discord that should fly over the heads of most folks) to create an army of nanobots with which they plan to terrorize and eventually, one assumes, rule the world. But while Cody might be an exemplary agent in nearly every aspect, he lacks the one skill required to make this mission a success: He can't talk to girls. Despite the tireless efforts of his handlers, led by Angie Harmon as Ronica Miles (cast presumably to give dad a little non-Nabokovian eye-candy, her every entrance is heralded by Nelly's "Hot in Herre"), Cody seems a lost cause; that is, until he just starts being himself, at which point he wins Natalie over, getting invited to her birthday party where he can engage in some Mission: Impossible derring-do (or is that Topkapi?) in order to snoop on her dad's work for E.R.I.S. When this errand doesn't go quite as planned, Cody's cover is blown, and Natalie is kidnapped, leading to a big battle in a mountainside secret fortress against the scary likes of stock baddie, Arnold Vosloo. It all breezes by agreeably enough to make one wonder if MGM might be tempted to start spawning child-skewed spin-offs of their other properties. Given the dark tincture of the manner in which these pint-sized agents are created, could The Boychurian Candidate be far off? MGM presents Agent Cody Banks in a fine anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras for this "Special Edition" are plentiful, including a commentary with director Harald Zwart, Muniz, and Harmon, deleted scenes, outtakes, an "exclusive peek" at the already in-production sequel, storyboard-to-film comparisons, and three featurettes ("Frankie Muniz Going Big," How to Talk to Girls," and "Cool Makeup Tricks by Hilary Duff"). Also included is a behind-the-scenes documentary entitled "Developing Agent Cody Banks"; "Creating Cody's World," which offers a tour of the film's sets and a look at the costume design; a look at the post-production process entitled "Posting Cody Banks"; a "Director's Diary," and the stunt featurette "Agent Action." Keep-case.