Genre: Action, Adventure

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

Release Date: March 14, 2003

Actors: Frankie Muniz, Hilary Duff, Andrew Francis, Angie Harmon, Darrell Hammond, Keith David, Martin Henderson, Ian McShane, Judge Reinhold, Cynthia Stevenson, Arnold Vosloo, Connor Widdows

Director: Harald Zwart

Special Notes: I met Frankie when he was a young star who was gaining fame for his TV show "Malcolm in the Middle" and gave him rave reviews for his first feature film (and one of my favorite family classics), My Dog Skip.  Frankie trained with the coach who did the Karate Kid movies and performed many of the stunts himself.  It took ten days of solid 24 hour filming to get the final scene finished, with explosions, helicopters, snowmobiles, stunts, fights and things flying around the giant set.

Plot: Cody Banks (Muniz) loves to skateboard, hates math, freezes at the thought of talking to a girl but is really good at keeping secrets. In fact, his biggest secret happens to be every kids dream. Cody spent his summer at a very different kind of camp--he trained at a top secret facility for the CIA. Cody can drive like a stuntman, was trained in martial arts, has the latest gadgets, and his mentor happens to be the very beautiful and smart Ronica Miles (Harmon). Cody's first assignment is to get invited to the most-popular-girl-at-school's birthday party, Natalie Connors (Duff). Why? Because her father (Donovan) happens to be a scientist who has created an invention called the "Nanobots" that the bad guys (McShane,Vosloo) are going to use to control the world. When Agent Banks is sent to get the girl, he freezes up and the CIA realize they spent $10 million training Cody but forgot to teach him how to talk to girls. No problem! Agent Miles helps him out until Natalie and her father are both kidnapped, then it's time for Cody to use his secret training, cool gadgets, amazing snowboard and outrageous flying machines to bring them home.

Good: This is a fun-filled, action-packed 'agent adventure' for teens that's a bit more serious and mature than Spy Kids but has all the cool gadgets, cars, chase scenes and X-treme sports that a Bond film does. I loved seeing the gadgets and gizmos that Cody gets to use and the intricate special effects and stunt scenes that make this movie look like an adult "Bond" or Mission Impossible film. Kids will delight in the fact that agent "Banks - Cody Banks" saves the girl and saves the world while taking driver]s training (one of my favorite scenes), driving a cool sports car, skiing, skateboarding and doing daredevil stunts. Muniz is perfect for the role; he delivers some very funny lines and endures some very funny situations. Kids will recognize Duff from her popular Disney show "Lizzie McGuire". The two are cast in believable roles that let them act like normal teenagers in an abnormal situation. The "sexy" but serious sidekick is Harmon, who as Cody's mentor, delivers some funny lines, gets to do some great stunts and ends up being Cody's parental role model and moral touchstone about life and relationships. The two have great chemistry which makes the plot work and the storyline fun. I enjoyed seeing the Mummy bad guy Vosloo as the villain who tries to capture Banks. He's convincingly scary, mean and had a few scenes that made me literally squirm in my seat and (one time) jump. I've seen a lot of kid's movies throughout the years, but this time the clever dialogue, talented actors, well-written storyline and amazing special effects, set this one apart and make it one of those movies that will appeal to all ages.

Bad: Having said all my praises for the good parts, there are a couple of things parents of younger children should make note of. This is an action/adventure movie so…the PG rating is for several fight scenes (between teens an adults) and some intense and scary chase scenes and situations. The teen characters are kidnapped, threatened and almost killed in an explosion. Due to the mature storyline full of action and intense fight scenes, this is NOT a movie for children under 6 who scare or frighten easily. Not only will little ones have a hard time discerning what is real and what fantasy is, but the intense fight scenes might have them covering their eyes. I was sitting next to a 4 year-old who buried her face in her mother's chest the last 15 minutes of the movie because of the intense action. At the end she loudly exclaimed, "I didn't like that movie, Mommy.  It was scary." Her 8 year-old sister then chimed in, "It wasn't scary!" So you see--there is a big difference in perception within just a few years. There are also some subtle sexual innuendoes, suggestive dialogue that older kids and teens might find humorous, and a few sexy skintight outfits on Harmon. One small thing that I feel I need to mention. Generally I don't care for kids' movies that make the parents look as if they're mental morons or buffoons. I realize that with a secret agent plot, there has to be an implication that the parents don't know what's going on so that our hero can get away with his double identity. But I still take issue with making parents look stupid and disconnected from their kids' lives. In the end, Cody's parents applaud him for his "secret" job, but they still aren't cool. That's why I enjoyed Spy Kids; the parents were portrayed as hip, intelligent, spies and the kids didn't belittle their parents.  Everything was a family effort and supported.

Bottom Line: I see sequel written all over this movie and deservedly so! This is a movie that doesn't insult your intelligence just because it's made for kids. It's a fun movie to watch with an interesting plot, great character portrayals, lots of action, incredible special effects and gadgets and fun nods to the adults by sneaking in references to Dr. Strangelove, Star Wars, Barbarella, Moonraker and Goldfinger. Parents, this is a movie your older kids and teens will enjoy - and 'secretly' you will too.