James Bond fanboys who’ve been wetting themselves over Daniel Craig’s casting can take heart: This teen-targeted pastiche keeps the adolescent spirit of the late-era 007 flicks alive—minus the shaken martinis and pussy galore. Actually, Alex Rider owes as much to the cheeky late-’60s episodes of The Avengers as it does to Roger Moore. Anthony Horowitz’s screenplay, adapted from his best-selling YA novel, concerns a 14-year-old lad (Pettyfer) who’s recruited after his globe-hopping MI6-agent uncle is killed. Having been unwittingly trained in the superspying arts, Alex is assigned to track a rich Yank (Rourke) with nefarious plans for Britain’s schoolchildren. Aided by his nanny (Silverstone) and an M-like agency bigwig (the scene-stealing Nighy), Alex engages in all manner of high-tech, high-adrenaline world-saving.
The real fun here is in decoding Alex Rider’s values. At first blush it seems as morally vacuous as any Bond film, but there may be more going on than meets the eye. After all, when was the last time an American kids’ movie featured a boy on the cusp of draft age foiling a populist, revenge-obsessed billionaire loon so that a future generation could live? (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.)—Mark Holcomb