Schlockmeister extraordinaire Roland Emmerich has gone and done it again. In White House Down, Emmerich blows up Washington, D.C., for the second time in his directing career. This time, though, he uses an explosive device that’s considerably less of a bomb than this clichéd muddle of a movie . . .
Let’s briefly recap was passes for a plot in WHD. Channing Tatum is John Cale, a D.C. cop and Secret Service wannabe. President Obama, oops, I mean Sawyer, is played by Jamie Foxx, possibly because Morgan Freeman was stuck in a wormhole and thus unavailable.
Sawyer has a plan to cure the ills of the world by pulling all US troops out of the Middle East and bringing the heads of the nations together for three days of peace, love and maybe some first rate medical ganja. John Boehner, whoa, I mean Speaker of the House Rafelson, the evil Republican who has been a fixture of Hollywood film making since The American President, opposes POTUS’ plan.
While Cale visits the WH with his daughter, “terrorists” turn the Capitol Dome into the Capitol Bowl by means of an exploding cleaning cart. Meanwhile, the WH is attacked from within by killers disguised as janitors and Cale’s daughter is trapped in a White House toilet.
Like a hapless parody of Lethal Weapon, Cale and Sawyer team up to save the missing daughter, defeat the enemies of democracy and restore the assault weapons ban. As Cale dodges bullets like Neo from The Matrix, Foxx spends the rest of the movie flopping around in a suit, tie and white sneakers. Sidesplitting, I know. And yet – this may be hard to believe — White House Down is not a comedy.
Okay, we’ve already spent more time on the plot than the scriptwriters ever imagined. So what? It’s an action movie and makes no intellectual pretenses. Right?
There’s lots of action and plenty of shooting, but nothing that we haven’t seen before and done much better elsewhere. As recently as March, Olympus Has Fallen did a good job of whacking the The People’s House, and the gunfighting scenes in that film were pretty decent. With half the budget of WHD, Olympus treated us to hordes of killer Koreans in garbage trucks rolling up on the White House. What could be better than that? The rest of Olympus could be described as “Die Hard in the White House.” And on a purely escapist level, it worked.
WHD accomplishes a summer movie trifecta by ripping off Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and Olympus Has Fallen, all at once. The WHD script doesn’t miss even the smallest bit of trite schtick. And as far as the destruction of the seat of power is concerned, Emmerich himself did it better in Independence Day. Then again, in Independence Day he had killer aliens to do his dirty work. In WHD he’s stuck with killer janitors.
White House Down is little more than looney political propaganda disguised as an action movie wrapped around a black-white buddy movie. So it’s really three bad movies in one. If you think of Barack Obama as an action hero, then this movie is for you. Otherwise, stay home and pop your own corn.
Model: White House Downer
Caliber: Very low
Length: 131 minutes, but it seems longer
Action: Nothing you haven’t seen before
Finish: Incredibly dumb
Price: Whatever it cost, I want my money back. So do the financial backers. All of us will be disappointed.
RATINGS (out of five bullets)
Style * * *
Emmerich knows how to shoot a scene. There were a couple of long-distance shots that were artfully done. The hand to hand fighting scenes also had a degree of excitement. But no style points were earned by the mundane gunfighting scenes, and the CGI was so obvious I wondered if they were cribbed from a Sunday morning cartoon.
Reliability * *
Channing Tatum was sufficiently studley to pass as a former special forces/DC cop/Secret Service washout. James Woods did a great job of playing himself playing POTUS’ security chief. But please, somebody wake up Jamie Foxx, who seemed to be sleepwalking through the whole film.
OVERALL RATING * *
Wait for it to appear on free TV and you’ll get your money’s worth. Well, except for the cost of the electricity.