Agent Cody Banks 

From its trailer, Agent Cody Banks looks an awful lot like Spy Kids, with a cute kid — in this case Frankie Muniz of “Malcolm in the Middle” — given a bunch of neat gizmos and trained in ass-kicking who’s then called upon to save the world when it becomes clear that a regular adult superhero just won’t cut it. The movie proper does nothing to discourage this theory and, like most copycats, doesn’t live up to the greatness of the original.

After spending a few years as a sleeper agent, precocious Cody is whisked away by a bodysuit-clad Angie Harmon to CIA headquarters, where he’s told by agency head Keith David (why David isn’t the villain in this movie is a mystery — he’s way scarier than anonymous madman Ian McShane) that he must develop a relationship with beautiful teenager Natalie Connors (Hilary Duff), whose father has developed man-eating nanobots that will, unbeknownst to him, be used for ill. But forsooth, fate is Shakespeareanly cruel to our young hero. Here’s Cody’s big chance, and he’s being asked to do the one thing he finds impossible: talk to a girl.

Duff’s own Achilles heel — the concept of real acting, as opposed to what she is asked to do as the star of Disney Channel’s “Lizzie McGuire,” escapes her completely — leaves a lot to be desired in on-screen repartee with the endearing Muniz.

Among the movie’s producers can be found the names of Jason Alexander and Madonna. Given the Oxford English Dictionary-dwarfing length of the producer list, it can be assumed that these two got their credits by merely glancing in the direction of the script once or twice, although I’d give good money to find out what exactly they had to do with the production. Sometimes disparate elements work in favor of a film. In this case, even Shakespeare himself couldn’t have helped.

Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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