Frankie Muniz, Hilary Duff, Angie Harmon, Keith David, Ian McShane
Jeffrey Jurgensen, Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
This film is a harmless way to spend a Saturday afternoon with the family. This is not a great film, however, I'd have to wonder if the folks who think this is an "F" have forgotten what it's like to be a child. This is a kid's movie and should be rated as such. To compare it to films made to appeal to adults is to do it an injustice. That said, this film is still one of many missed opportunities. It features kid stars Frankie Muniz (as Agent Cody Banks) and the popular Hilary Duff (as Natalie).
How the film doesn't manage to exhibit more life with these two stars is beyond me. Clearly, I must put most of the blame on director Harald Zwart. Zwart blows many opportunities here to build on the chemistry and energy of these two young stars. Additionally, while I have no problem suspending belief for the sake of a kid's film this film takes realistic situations and stages them in such a way that they become unbelievable (and not in a good way!).
The chemistry between Muniz and his handler, Ronica, played by Angie Harmon is also handled inappropriately. I admired not going for the "easy" answers by turning her maternal or making her distant. Instead, however, the character comes off so bland that when she comes to admire Agent Banks one has to wonder why this has happened. Most of the other characters perform competently in supporting roles. The exception would be an out of place Darrell Hammond playing "Ernie", a CIA scientist, who appears to be doing no more than his Saturday Night Live Bill Clinton routine while wearing a lab coat. It was distracting and out of place in this film.
Overall, I still think this is a decent family film with a couple scenes that might be a bit scary for younger children. It's rated "PG" for action violence, mild language and some sensuality (Harmon tends to wear "tight" clothing...and she wears them well!). I have a feeling Muniz could have done much more with this role under the right director and with a better script.
- Richard Propes
The Independent Critic