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Soundtrack review: Agent Cody Banks (John Powell – 2003)

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Well John Powell’s most famous scores are either form animation movies or for secret agent movies so maybe “Agent Cody Banks” will make the best of both these genres since it’s the story of a teen secret agent who is trained to fight but not to talk to a girl. Agent Cody Banks is assigned to spying on fellow student Natalie Connors (Hilary Duff) in order to get close to her father, a scientist who has invented killer nanobots designed to bring down the country. I wasn’t a big fan of Powell’s “Bourne” scores but I hope the lighter tone of this movie might give him a better canvas.

The general tone of the score is what you would expect from a story like this. There are no real surprises. There’s the James Bond ish sound that never fails, there are comedic inserts and there’s action. I am sure I’ve heard “CIA” before. Is it again a Star Wars motif? I am getting a lot of SW action buzz in some moments.

“Skateboard” chase is my first highlight. This is the kind of fun I can enjoy. It starts with a motif taken straight out of Star Wars and continues with a frantic and amusing chase motif I feel like rooting for. There are no limits or restrains here and I hope this adventurous spy vibe will be kept throughout the score. It’s not but to my surprise this is not a bad thing. The music gets very imaginative and varied. I feel as if I’m at the circus when I hear “Field agent” or that I’m watching a silly cartoon in “Stutter boy”.

I still can’t put my finger on what the very exciting CIA cues remind me of. I know I’ve heard the theme or the motif before but where? I keep scratching my head and then I realize that it’s a development of a motif I’ve heard in “The rock”. That’s not a bad place to be inspired from. I’m sure Powell must have picked something up from those sessions. The CIA cues are my favorites by far. Just check out “CIA cleans house” and you will see what I mean. It’s as if that “The rock” motif got dressed up and made into the most wonderful cartoon. I listen to “Agent Cody Banks” and in my mind plays a cartoon with characters from both that movie and Star Wars.

The excitement of those cues makes even the others look good. It’s excellence by association. Maybe pieces like “The van” or “Slo-mo Natalie” would be totally forgettable on their own, but surrounded by the other adventurous and fun cues they are also enjoyable.

I had a much better time with “Agent Cody Banks” than I expected. It was a very fresh and enjoyable rollercoaster and there was never a dull moment with this score. I liked its optimism and joy and the fact that it never lost sight of what the story was about. I also liked the little stings of spy movie nostalgia it gave me. As always, John Powell delivers.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 23 / 80

Album excellence: 29%

Highlights:

Skateboard Chase

Cia

Cody To Duty

Welcome To The Cia

Cia Cleans House

Break In Part 1

Cody Can’t Help

Seaplane

Snowmobile Chase

I’ll Be Back

End Credits

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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