So exactly how much destruction is director Roland Emmerich capable of? The director of “Independence Day,” “2012,” “Godzilla” and “The Day After Tomorrow” certainly is no stranger to laying waste to complete cities, even the world. This time, with “White House Down,” his destruction is limited to a single residence, but it just so happens to be the residence of the most powerful man in the world, the President of the United States.
Yes, “White House Down” is yet another movie about a White House takeover, very similar to “Olympus Has Fallen,” released earlier this year. But while “Olympus Has Fallen” took itself way too seriously and was devoid of fun, “White House Down” is thoroughly entertaining despite its ridiculousness.
A lot of that fun should be credited to Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. Tatum stars as John Cale, a Capitol policeman who just failed an interview to become a Secret Service agent. He has an 11-year-old daughter who loves politics, so he brings her along for his job interview. But they both end up as hostages when a group of mercenaries take over the White House to capture President James Sawyer (Foxx). Tatum succeeds in his first attempt at playing an action hero, and his tall physique, good looks and charm serve him well in the role. Foxx doesn’t deliver one of his finer performances as the POTUS, but you can definitely tell he’s having fun with his character and the situations he’s forced into.
Despite being known for his MMDs (Movies of Mass Destruction), Emmerich has shown restraint to film some very effective action films without the use of heavy CGI. Films such as “Stargate,” “Universal Soldier” and “The Patriot” may not be as memorable as his other films, but all were very well made and entertaining. So “White House Down” lands between the films of destruction he’s known for and his more (relatively) subtle past action films.
But if there’s one common theme to all of Emmerich’s films, it’s absurdity and cheese. Uploading a virus to an alien spaceship in “Independence Day?” Yes, there are head scratchers like that in “White House Down,” which will make you roll your eyes. Who else would think of a buddy action film with the President of the United States? And the finale features the longest eight minutes in cinematic history. But to the film’s credit, you’re sitting there eating your popcorn and still loving the film because it’s fun, even if it’s stupid. And yes, Emmerich also forces in some cheesy sentimental moments as he’s done in other films. After all, what’s an action movie without heart?
Still, “White House Down” is like that class clown who’s also one of the most popular kids in school — not the sharpest tool in the shed, but fun to be around. The film successfully combines elements from action films of the past (primarily “Die Hard” with a little bit of the “The Rock”), resulting in one of the better recent action films.
“White House Down,” 131 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters today.