Malcolm on the bottom

Frankie Muniz and Anthony Anderson reference an old Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper flick in the classic new film Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London.

Frankie Muniz and Anthony Anderson reference an old Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper flick in the classic new film Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London.

Rated 1.0

The invitation to the preview screening I attended of Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London gave no running time for the movie; it said only “TBD” for “to be determined.” After sitting through the movie (I neglected to check my watch, but it felt like it ran about 48 hours), it was clear why the running time was left up in the air: even as the invitations were being printed, someone somewhere was desperately hoping still that something could be done to save this horrible movie.

Frankie Muniz (of TV’s Malcolm in the Middle) returns as Cody Banks, a Seattle teenager who—unbeknownst to his simpering parents (Daniel Roebuck and Cynthia Stevenson) and snotty kid brother (Connor Widdows)—also is an undercover CIA agent. For this sequel, Cody’s family is relegated to walk-ons at the beginning and end (and Seattle never appears at all), while Cody is whisked away for a two-week special assignment in London.

It all has something to do with Agent Diaz (Keith Allen), who has worked for 20 years on a CIA mind-control program. Some time back, the agency discontinued the project and made Diaz head counselor at the summer camp where Cody trains. Diaz has been stewing about it ever since; now he has finally gone renegade and has stolen the mind-control software, intending to use it on the participants at a G-7 conference at Buckingham Palace and thereby coming to rule the world. For no reason whatsoever—except that the movie is called Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London—Cody is dispatched to foil Diaz’s nefarious plans. Cody’s cover is as a clarinetist in an “international youth orchestra,” even though he can’t play a note, and his London “handler” is Derek (Anthony Anderson), who is even worse at espionage than Cody is at the clarinet.

I called Cody Banks 2 “horrible,” and I used the word deliberately. Another good one would be “shoddy"; I doubt if there’s ever been a worse-made movie sporting the MGM logo. The screenplay is credited to Don Rhymer, from a story by Rhymer, Dylan Sellers and Harald Zwart (who directed the original film). At no time does the script rise above the level of its own fart-and-potty jokes. The alleged director is one Kevin Allen, whose last such effort was the 1999 hairdresser comedy The Big Tease and whose acting credits include appearances in Trainspotting and Spice World.

On this film, Allen’s direction is minimal and seems to have been confined to calling “action” and “cut” at more-or-less random intervals. I wonder even if either Allen or cinematographer Denis Crossan ever bothered to look through the viewfinder of the camera; if they had, they might have noticed how lopsided all the shots were ("Oh, I say, old bean, the action is over here. How silly of us, eh?")

In addition to the writers, director and cinematographer, Cody Banks 2 boasts (if that’s the right word) of having nine assistant directors and no fewer than 14 producers (among whom, amazingly enough, are Jason Alexander and Madonna). Exactly what this mind-boggling array of personnel contributed to the production is a mystery that will have to await the making-of documentary on the DVD. My own guess is that most of them just used the gig as a way to wangle a free trip to London out of the suits at MGM.

Frankie Muniz is still an appealing and sympathetic adolescent, and Anderson has enough comic charm to make us overlook the boneheaded shtick he’s been saddled with. Odds are their careers will survive (though much will hinge on whether MGM follows through with the further sequels that are threatened in the closing scenes).

In my review of the original Cody Banks, I called it the halfhearted work of contractors who never gave it a moment’s thought after punching out at the end of the day. Cody Banks 2 takes that even further: This time, the movie’s makers don’t seem to have given it any thought even while they were making it.