Editor’s Notes: White House Down opens wide theatrically today, June 28th.
In the field of film explosions and destruction it is tough to dethrone Michael Bay, but if anyone were to do it, it would be Roland Emmerich. His last feature, Anonymous, was a bit of a departure from his usual city crushing concoction, but the director of The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day (and apparently the upcoming Independence Day 2, because aliens totally get the importance of the American holiday) couldn’t stay away for too long. It seems slightly odd for another film about a hostile takeover of the White House with Olympus Has Fallen being released as recently as March but that’s just the way Hollywood works sometimes. Similar plots aside, an action film directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Channing Tatum; is anybody actually expecting anything profound from White House Down?
We should probably just get this out of the way; White House Down is a stupid film. If we just look at its pieces, you have to expect a low IQ. It is riddled with clichés, houses a plethora of stock characters and immediately feels derivative.
John Cale (Channing Tatum), a US Capitol Police officer, is trying his hardest to win back the affections of his daughter Emily (Joey King). Emily is an intelligent and precocious preteen with a deep obsession for American history, touting the current President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) as her hero. In an effort to impress her, John cashes in some favors to get an interview for the Secret Service and a White House guest pass. After his interview goes poorly, John and Emily settle for a tour of the building. Unfortunately, a paramilitary group has chosen this very day to invade the nation’s capitol and capture the President. John must now rescue the Leader of the Free World while doggedly trying to keep his daughter safe.
We should probably just get this out of the way; White House Down is a stupid film. If we just look at its pieces, you have to expect a low IQ. It is riddled with clichés, houses a plethora of stock characters and immediately feels derivative. But here’s the thing, it is so much damn fun. I pray that those behind it had their tongues firmly in their cheeks, because otherwise they may be pretentious idiots with delusions of grandeur. I don’t know if it was the scene where Channing Tatum spoke directly to a squirrel or the President’s childlike insistence on a particular helicopter maneuver, regardless I promptly realized that my brain had no part to play in the viewing of this film. It will not present any surprises, its “twists” will be forecasted with the subtlety of an overzealous sign-twirler and it’s going to end exactly the way you think it will. This is the type of film that will be airing every Saturday and Sunday on USA or TNT in the coming year. I should by all accounts despise this film and chastise it as an utter waste of time, but for reasons that I hope to elucidate, I sat through the majority of the runtime with a big dumb grin on my face.
Whether you are aware of it or not, Channing Tatum is slowly taking over the world. He is no longer the dumb dancing guy, now he’s the charmingly funny dumb dancing guy. His pretty boy and jock-like aura was initially off-putting but the self effacing sense of comedic timing in the shockingly good 21 Jump Street and his undeniable charm that was a pillar of success in Magic Mike has made him accessible and downright likable. He is like your pleasantly goofy friend that just happens to be good looking. He communicates an everyman status with the best of intentions in John Cale and his ability to toss off humorous quips in the midst of flying debris is catered perfectly to the action genre. Additionally, he has a casual chemistry with all of his costars. The relationship between he and child actor Joey King, whose character narrowly avoids slipping into annoyance, is sweet in its growth. Tatum convincingly legitimizes his action star status with ease.
The action is proficiently directed by Emmerich. Fights are choreographed well and all of the set pieces are pleasant enough to watch. Comparisons to the Die Hard franchise are inevitable and it should be noted that White House Down is more entertaining than the last two entries in that series, although I don’t know how much that says.
The action is proficiently directed by Emmerich. Fights are choreographed well and all of the set pieces are pleasant enough to watch. Comparisons to the Die Hard franchise are inevitable and it should be noted that White House Down is more entertaining than the last two entries in that series, although I don’t know how much that says. There is some unfortunate CGI involving larger vehicles that I assume would’ve been just too expensive to acquire and blow up, luckily these moments are fleeting. The script is happy to splurge on mindless fun and refrains from taking itself too seriously until the last 40 minutes, in which the film comes to a bit of a halt and limps to its finale in an apparent attempt to make you forget the good time that you were having. By the time the film reaches its conclusion a deeper message is shoved into your face with such force as to illicit nothing but groans, losing its head the farther it goes up its own ass. You cannot give me a chrome rocket launcher shot out the window of a bulletproof limousine and then expect me to take your political message seriously. The attempt to derive meaning from what was two hours of unadulterated fluff is heavy-handed and exceedingly unnecessary.
Not every film has a deeper meaning and even though you may hear otherwise, a lot of film critics don’t have a problem with that. Sure I love Barton Fink but I also can’t say no to Con Air. Films can make us laugh, cry and think, but ultimately they are here to entertain us, and White House Down is certainly entertaining. Roland Emmerich sure does love destroying the White House, so it makes perfect sense to have him directing a film fixed squarely on that premise. With a script that is able to laugh at itself and revel in the absurdly over-the-top, the film is often funny and profoundly watchable. Channing Tatum continues his trend of charming the pants off of audiences and in the process solidifies himself as an action star. While the film is overlong and gets a bit preachy at the end, it’s still not enough to negate the ridiculously good time to be had. White House Down is popcorn-fare to the extreme and while it won’t make you feel smart for enjoying it, it’s as fun as it is dumb.
[notification type=”star”]62/100 ~ OKAY. While the film is overlong and gets a bit preachy at the end, it’s still not enough to negate the ridiculously good time to be had. White House Down is popcorn-fare to the extreme and while it won’t make you feel smart for enjoying it, it’s as fun as it is dumb.[/notification]