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Friday, March 12, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Moira Macdonald
Duff clearly had better things to do this time around, but Muniz and his perpetual expression of wide-eyed astonishment are back. He's likable, as is his blond counterpart Hannah Spearritt (a Kirsten Dunst lookalike), but the movie has an obligatory, going-through-the-motions feel to it. It's overfamiliar and never as funny as it needs to be.
The kids are in London to recover a stolen mind-control device and save the world, and Muniz, Spearritt, Anthony Anderson (as young Cody's wisecracking grown-up handler) and the rest do their best with the gadgets, duels and adventure required of this junior James Bond.
But too much of "Destination London" smacks of desperation; there's even a rather pathetic flatulence joke that didn't register at all with an audience of kids at the preview screening. (Perhaps this will be the topic of somebody's film-school thesis someday: "When Flatulence Fails.") And when the filmmakers reference "Apocalypse Now" a film that, to my knowledge, is not popular with the grade-school set at which this film is aimed you start wondering if any of the film's long lineup of producers (which include, mysteriously, Madonna and Jason Alexander of "Seinfeld") actually read this script.
Kids may well find the film diverting, but there's just not a lot of creativity or energy here. With such terrific recent family movies as "School of Rock" and "Whale Rider" available on DVD, "Destination London" isn't really worth a trip to the multiplex except, of course, for the refreshments.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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