Action and drama in "White House Down."
White House Down
It's been 25 years since a barefoot Bruce Willis scurried his way around Nakatomi Plaza and dismantled a crew of European baddies in "Die Hard." Yet studios continue to pilfer from that action classic, ever eager to exploit a formula that has earned box-office bucks many times over.
Case in point: The new Channing Tatum/Jamie Foxx actioner "White House Down." While fun in a harmless, artificial sort of way -- like Pop Rocks or costume jewelry -- "White House Down" is little more than "Die Hard" at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Plot points and characters are strikingly similar. Fortunately, leads Tatum and Foxx backed by a solid cast that includes Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins and James Woods lend the film a certain charm that helps balance out the "Die Hard" deja vu.
Military standout John Cale (Tatum) aspires to be a Secret Service agent and protect President James Sawyer (Foxx), especially since John's daughter Emily (Joey King) is a big fan of the pro-peace Commander in Chief. Shortly after a seemingly failed interview, John takes Emily on a tour of the White House, where she gets to meet President Sawyer in person. But Emily's jubilation is short lived as gun-toting mercenaries furtively seize control thanks to help from someone on the inside (no spoilers here).
While nearly everyone in the White House is taken hostage, John manages to evade capture (sound familiar ... ?) and sets his sights on protecting Sawyer and rescuing his captive daughter.
Tatum again demonstrates his likability as an actor and has a certain self-effacing quality that other "hunky" actors clearly lack. He brings a consistent humor and humility to his performance and is able to sell the action scenes effortlessly (his martial-arts background doesn't hurt).
Foxx is a bit miscast as the leader of the free world, especially for those of us who still remember his riotous turn as Wanda in the sketch-comedy show "In Living Color." But his charisma and experience are a boon here. Gyllenhaal and Woods (as Secret Service know-it-alls), frankly, look a bit haggard but perform admirably, and youngster King ("The Dark Knight Rises") adds a spark.
German director Roland Emmerich, whose resume includes a handful of doomsday pics ("Independence Day," "Godzilla"), goes light on believability and heavy on gunfire. The action is furious but implausible, with helicopters exploding over Washington, D.C., and an SUV doing donuts on the White House lawn.
Still, there's something to be said about watching an entertaining action flick in an air-conditioned theater while the summer heat swelters. Just maintain expectations and aim for a matinee. And get popcorn.
Rated PG-13 for language, a brief sexual image, and intense action violence, gunfire and explosions. Two hours, 17 minutes.
- Tyler Hanley