Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Teenagers need role models and the latest is Alex Rider, a junior James Bond for the 21st century, who has appeared in six Anthony Horowitz novels so far. It was only a matter of time before Hollywood snapped him up, but, hey, this is a British movie - you can tell because Stephen Fry and Robbie Coltrane have blink'n'go roles.

On a scale of Spy Kids to Agent Cody Banks, it scores a healthy seven. Alex (Alex Pettyfer) is well trained. Actually, he is confused a lot of the time, but doesn't hang about waiting to be told what to do. He is fearless in a good way, ignorant and inquisitive. And he doesn't show off.

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As for everyone else, they ham it up outrageously and suddenly Stormbreaker becomes an action comedy, wonderfully light-hearted in order to disguise the absurdity of the storyline and the miscasting of the chief baddie (Mickey Rourke). It is not so much an effects extravaganza as a stuntfest, all in the best possible taste. If it feels derivative, that's because it is, but never boring.

WARNING for purists: Alex is supposed to be 14, but looks two years older.

He is an orphan who lives with his uncle (Ewan McGregor) and "housekeeper" (Alicia Silverstone). He idolises his uncle, who is always away on business - he's an agent for MI6, but Alex hasn't a clue - and one day he comes home in a coffin and Alex's world changes forever. He is recruited by his uncle's boss (an hilarious performance from Bill Nighy) to find out what is going on in a state-of-the-art factory miles from anywhere in Cornwall, where an advanced virtual reality computer is being built by an eccentric American millionaire (Rourke), with the flesh of waxworks and a permanent toothpick between his teeth, to be donated, a la Bill Gates, to schools throughout the country.

Of course, this philanthropic act hides a devilish plot that Alex uncovers and from then on it's a run-run/fun-fun chase movie, with Pettyfer coming through with flying colours. Missi Pyle plays Rourke's Germanic blonde PA in a slapstick stand-up style and Andy Serkis, immortalised as the body double for Gollum in The Rings Thing, totters about as Mr Bad's hideously scarred butler. Almost everyone, with the exception of the neat and efficient Sophie Okonedo, as Nighy's Number Two, is odd, excitable or deranged.

The film will appeal perfectly to its age group. There is nothing too violent and nothing too serious. Also, it doesn't try to be cool, which is a blessed relief for anyone over 20.

Is the first in the Alex Rider franchise a win-win, then? Not quite. There is the matter of Rourke's Face.

Reviewed on: 21 Jul 2006
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Alex Rider is a junior James Bond for the 21st century
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Director: Geoffrey Sax

Writer: Anthony Horowitz, based on the novel by Anthony Horowitz

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Alicia Silverstone, Mickey Rourke, Bill Nighy, Missi Pyle, Sophie Okonedo, Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis, Sarah Bolger, Ashley Walters, Andy Serkis, Stephen Fry, Robbie Coltrane

Year: 2006

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Germany/US/UK


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