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Agent Cody Banks

Seen: 2003.03.24   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.05.11 (updated 2007.12.20)

What is this, a movie for “tweens” that channels In Praise of Older Women?

Once you get past the sexual innuendo (the innuendo is pedophilia) and the almost-as-surprising fact that the kid actor with the hard-to-pronounce name, Frankie Muniz, actually can act, it is possible to imagine bringing your 11-year-old child to this film and not feeling like you, an adult, wasted your time.

Then again, nobody took the risk. In the auditorium tonight were all of 12 other people. We were the only weirdos with the access gear.

What’s credible about this warmed-over spy caper – it brings to mind a vague genre of Disney movies for kids, not one of which I could name – is its understanding that teenagers now codevelop with technology. Cody (and indeed his brother and friends) have no hesitation whatsoever in operating absolutely any necessary technology, and the filmmakers (are their names even important?) have the guts to take that ease and fluidity to its logical extreme: Cody drives a car.

There are 15-year-old boys as mature and with-it as Cody Banks, and if you hand them enough technology, in fact it suddenly becomes possible to imagine secret-agent-style shenanigans. At least shenanigans not requiring termination with extreme sanction.

(Still, that doesn’t stop F. Muniz from talking about “pollymare” compounds, as though he were suddenly speaking in a broad Hollywood French accent.)

Sometimes I wax philosophical about these films, sometimes I don’t. But here’s a philosophy lesson for you. We now have read enough times about the transference or projection phenomenon of tubby, middle-aged movie executives casting tubby, middle-aged actors (canonical example: Michael Douglas) alongside shockingly pneumatic young starlets, as though such women are ever interested in such men for reasons other than their money. You’re saying, “But May–December relationships happen!” Once or twice. Here or there. Sure. But mostly in movies, from The Greek Tycoon to present. (But wait: Wasn’t she simply interested in the “fictional” Greek shipping magnate’s money?)

We know that such casting represents a sublimated and unhealthy sexual unrealism. But when are we going to recognize that casting a statuesque, busty, vivacious mid-20s actress alongside a 15-year-old boy is the same thing, only worse? (“Listen, I’m not getting back with you,” he yells at her at one point, begging to be misconstrued.)

In the dream outcome of the Michael Douglas Scenario, sexual relations would merely be unpalatable for the rest of us to imagine. In the Frankie Muniz Scenario, such would be illegal. Needless to say, they’d also be every straight boy’s dream, but is that what we’re talking about here?

I haven’t seen LIE (I have enough dismal movies in my repertoire as it is), but the idea of a teenage boy having an affair with an “older” man seems less sanctionable to me, if only because it was a typical and common first sexual experience for gay men of all generations up to the most recent. Such relations may nonetheless be equally illegal, but in all fairness to the movies in question, they are fictitious. I would simply contend that it is irresponsible not to mention the sexual innuendo between the female grown-up agent and the teenage male agent.

But there’s more! NAMBLA types will obsessively rerun the shirtless-teenage-boys-changing-for-gym-class scenes. Yes, plural. What is up with this movie?

That took a while, didn’t it? You know how the right-wing fundies are – if you so much as mention pedophilia in any sentence that does not include the phrase “ought to be strung up,” they go accusing you of being soft on child abuse. Having grown up with extensive verbal and one episode of physical abuse myself, I am hardly soft on anything.

Now, were we talking about a movie here?

Right. Well, the cupholder on the seat to my right was missing. I guess that simply assured that no other reflector user would sit there.

Caption quality

(espionage-flavored pop theme plays): Possibly inexplicable to a born-deaf audience, but a good evocative explanation.

to break down any silicon or carbon-based compound: You mean “to break down any carbon-based compound or silicon”? Silicon- takes a hyphen (nonbreaking, were this print typography) in such a case.

When identifying unnamed speakers, you don’t have to limit yourself to MAN:/WOMAN:/BOY:/GIRL:; you can be more descriptive:


At Sweden’s Lindzerping University: Linköping, shurely? (It’s pronounced “Linshöping.”)

Five-thousand dollars cash: No, $5,000 cash.

I hate constructs like these, especially since they’re centred and unreadable rather than left-justified and readable, and also lack a space after the dash:

-... please move your car.
-This is for good luck.

Description quality

A lot to talk about here. Pat Lentz is the narratrix. (Doesn’t she also do Malcolm in the Middle, the original Frankie Muniz vehicle?)

We mentioned an alarm clock, but not that it read 7:00. In a video that covers the topic of training “undercover” agents, everyone in the video wears a CIA jacket, a gag that is not described. I suspect they gave it a whirl and couldn’t fit it in.

“The boy releases the parking brake”: Yes, but then he puts the Volvo in reverse!

“The mother gapes!” “Cody gapes, staring at the phone.” What’s a DVS production without two or three utterances of that word?

“Land in front of the blue Volvo”: No, its rear bumper. The car has done a 180: It was already driving backwards down the hill. There are no wipers on the glass; there’s a trailer hitch.

“Onto a file marked CIA”: No, marked Central Intelligence Agency.

A “brunette” is mentioned. Later, so is a “redhead” (“The redhead, Fenster, grabs Cody’s watch”), but in that case, it’s a boy and his hair is reddish-brown.

“Her tight, low-cut top exposes her full cleavage”: It does. “Cody slams his foot on the gas pedal and the car speeds backward.” It does. “Cody shakes hands with the well-built agent.” He does and he is.

Cody “slaps ten with Nigel.” Is that like knocking fists?

“The crude boy” and “the blond boy” are two non-nominal identifications. (Have I just coined a term? NNIs?) “The man, Nigel, holds items” is a typical preidentification. “Mr. Yip leans close to Natalie” is another preID, but Mr. Yip is an Andy Mickey Rooney–in–Breakfast at Tiffany’s–style (post-)racist characterization.

“Brinkman and François walk off”: Surname for one, given name for the other? Possibly. That’s how they’re known in the film.

“Smiles wryly” and “grins wryly”: Echo there.

“Now, in the unmarked van”: I hear this from time to time. The unmarked van? Have we been introduced to it before?

“They load up their equipment”: But Gary leaves his lawnmower behind.

“Outside, Marvin’s leg is raised over the suited man’s shoe”: Marvin is a dog and he’s taking a clearly-visible piss.

Somone wasn’t telling the truth about the physical nature of the agents working on Cody’s case. “The stocky agent” is a black guy built like a brick shithouse, while “the curly-haired agent” is a shaggy-haired fat white slob.

My notes are crap on this point, but the describers mix up left and right ears when discussing an earpiece and which side it gets pressed up against.

“In the dark, Cody clamours along on his StreetCarver,” a skateboard. I suppose this is one of those times when you describe a sound effect.

“A PalmPilot shows a U.S. map”: No, it’s a Danger HipTop.

“A helmeted guard on a snowmobile”: No, it’s a motorcycle with a full windshield (as opposed to a fairing).

“As the agents rejoin the Connors”: No, the Connorses. Their name is Connors, not Connor.


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