American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I've been trying to mind-control myself into the head of a kid the right age to enjoy "Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London," but either I was never that age, or I haven't reached it yet. I'm capable of enjoying the "Spy Kids" movies, so I know I'm not totally lacking in range, but this movie seems pre-assembled, like those kits where it takes more time to open the box than build the airplane.
The movie opens at a secret summer camp where the CIA trains teenagers to become junior James Bonds. The opening scene, in fact, is uncanny in the way it resembles the prologue of David Mamet's "Spartan." In both movies, characters in combat uniform with lots of camouflage paint on their faces creep through trees and try to cream one another. For Mamet, that is not the high point of his movie.
Cody Banks (Frankie Muniz) is a smart, resourceful kid who thinks there may be something fishy at the camp, which is run by Diaz (Keith Allen), love child of Patton and Rambo. After a secret plot is revealed, Cody finds himself on assignment in London, where his handler is Derek (Anthony Anderson) and his mission is to prevent the CIA's bad apples from gaining possession of a mind control device which fits inside a tooth and turns its wearer into a zombie.
It's a pretty nifty device: At one point, its mad inventor fits it to a dog, which then sits upright at a piano and plays a little tune, reminding me inevitably of Dr. Johnson's observation that when a dog sits on its hind legs, "it is not done well, but one is surprised to find it done at all." The dog is impressive but no pianist, and Derek, watching the demonstration on a spycam with Cody, decides he won't buy the CD.