Clinging to its only franchise sort-of-hit in years, MGM rushed a sequel to Agent Cody Banks before its affable star, Malcolm In The Middle's Frankie Muniz, hit his growth spurt and was lost to the tween market forever. Smaller in scale and ambition than even the modest original, Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (or, in the popular shorthand, ACB2:DL) opens with its snazziest effects sequences and gets cheaper from there, as if studio executives were constantly scaling back the budget as the filmmakers went along. Quickie sequels to family films are usually Destination: Home Video, but released in the Ides Of March, ACB2:DL gets to make a brief pit-stop in theaters to collect a few matinee dollars from undiscerning children.
Now a legendary figure at Kamp Woody, where pint-sized CIA trainees are presumably mature enough not to giggle at the name, Muniz gets assigned to an important case when a nefarious camp counselor (Keith Allen) runs off with top-secret mind-control software. Posing as a clarinetist for the International Youth Orchestra, Muniz infiltrates the London estate of a well-heeled scientist who plans to activate the software at a summit meeting and have key global leaders at his command. In an even more conspicuous cover, Muniz's handler, Anthony Andersonjust as funny here as in Kangaroo Jack and My Baby's Daddyworks as a "world-renowned" chef at the estate, serving up Compton favorites to the snooty Brits. Their screwy behavior draws the suspicions of fellow orchestra hottie Hannah Spearritt, who may not be who she seems.
Being set in London, ACB2:DL uses the opportunity to shock many stiff-lipped Lords and Sirs, as well as Queen Elizabeth herself, who gets appropriately jiggy during an impromptu rap version of Edwin Starr's Vietnam-era classic "War." The mind-control technology, controlled by video-game joysticks, would seem like a great chance for comic chicanery along the lines of Reggie Jackson in The Naked Gun, but the writers dream up nothing more inspired than a half-hearted food-fight. Muniz, who's used to the quick-witted cartoonishness of Malcolm, no longer takes to the role of Li'l 007, looking like a jaded post-pubescent stuck at the kids' table on Thanksgiving. Time will tell whether he can make the formidable leap into adult roles, but he could start by passing the torch on Agent Cody Banks 3 to his long-lost twin brother.