Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, James Woods
Directed by: Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day”)
Written by: James Vanderbilt (“The Amazing Spider-Man”)
From the get-go, “White House Down” has to overcome the fact that 2013 has already seen a movie with pretty much the exact same plot. Just three months ago, “Olympus Has Fallen” hit theaters with Gerard Butler as a disgraced Secret Service agent who find himself as the lone good guy inside the White House after it has been taken over by terrorists. As an R-rated macho cheese fest, “Olympus” was a stupid, fun ride with ham-sandwich performances from the likes of Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo paired with the sheer glee of seeing Butler stab terrorist after terrorist in the brain.
“White House Down” ups the ante with a better lead actor in Channing Tatum and more of a buddy-cop vibe, teaming Tatum’s wannabe Secret Service agent with Jamie Foxx’s Obama-ish president for some executive branch ass-kicking. The thing is, we’ve seen it all before…and it was more fun the first time around.
Tatum stars as John Cale, a Capitol police officer with dreams of becoming a Secret Service agent. His current post involves escorting the Speaker of the House (Richard Jenkins) to and from his home, as well as keeping squirrels out of the Speaker’s bird feeder. Cashing in a favor, Cale scores a job interview with the Secret Service inside the White House. Looking for a chance to connect with his politically nerdy daughter Emily (Joey King), Cale brings her along. After bombing his interview with Agent Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Cale and Emily take a tour of the White House where a chance encounter with President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) leaves Emily starstruck. During this tour, however, a bomb destroys the dome at the Capitol Building, sending Washington and the nation into a panic. It’s just a diversion, however, as the real goal of the terrorists behind the attack is taking over the White House.
Directed by Roland Emmerich (the director behind “Independence Day,” a film that gets a groan-worthy name-check in this film), “White House Down” sputters out of the gate, taking too long setting up Tatum as a failed family man and cop instead of just getting straight to the explosions. Tatum regresses slightly into the bland beefcake he spent all of “Magic Mike” and “21 Jump Street” moving away from last year, while Foxx isn’t as miscast as the President of the United States as you might think (Garcelle Beauvais, who played Foxx’s love interest on the sitcom “The Jamie Foxx Show,” plays the First Lady here…a distraction to the maybe three people who will make that connection). Still, neither is given much to work with. Plot points hinge on played-out things like launch codes and genius hackers and not killing the good guys/bad guys when you have a chance early in the film’s running time. The PG-13 rating also keeps the action and violence relatively tame. There are flashes of fun, however, like a chase across the White House lawn in presidential limousines that features the president firing a rocket launcher. Those moments are all too rare, though – as rare as the opportunity to say, “You know, that Gerard Butler movie did it better.”