You'd think that, by now, Roland Emmerich's gimmicky blockbuster formula would have imploded in on itself and culminated in an undeniable stinker.
(post Godzilla, that is)
And yet miraculously, White House Down, while just as dumb and ridiculous as its predecessors, still worked as a popcorn movie. Taking that one iconic scene from Independence Day and inexplicably spinning it off into its very own movie, Emmerich delivers yet another fun, mindless mess complete with vomit-inducing patriotism, big explosions and a bag-full of one dimensional characters and obvious stereotypes. Working with what seems like a much lower budget than 2012, White House Down focuses its attention on a siege taking place in the White House without going around the world and showing monuments and the French blow-up randomly, as those types of films usually do. Our lead is Channing Tatum, a cop who can talk to squirrels and who aspires to work for the President (Jamie Foxx) as part of the U.S. Secret Service. His daughter is the most comically patriotic little girl in the history of... things. Her pastimes include waving the flag and knowing U.S.A.-related facts. She's basically a live-action Lisa Simpson. Maggie "should be in better movies than this" Gyllenhaal also stars as someone who works for the President and becomes somewhat important later. Very quickly, it becomes apparent that White House Down is basically Die Hard. You've got bad guys taking over a building, a normal cop with marital problems who ends up covered in blood and wearing a tattered white vest, you've even got a cocky computer hacker (see Die Hard 4) and the obligatory elevator shaft scene.
No Kevin Smith, though :(
Say what you will about White House Down but it's a far, FAR better Die Hard 5 than A Good Day To Die Hard.
Yes it's mostly nonsensical and is completely over the top but at least it's well shot, it's entertaining and just tongue-in-cheek enough to make it make sense as a random popcorn movie. Granted, the very beginning of the film and the very end are both cheesy as hell, and not in a good way. People act like they're all part of the Flanders family: way too nice and righteous for their own good. Luckily, in between you get the President stabbing bad guys with pens yelling "I choose the pen!", James Woods being awesome, Tatum and Foxx flying a limo across the White House lawn, silly one-liners that would make Schwarzenegger jealous, and many more such shenanigans. They even reference Independence Day straight-up in one of the more shamelessly shameful moments of the film. There are attempts at a couple of plot twists but they shouldn't surprise anyone who's ever seen an action film before or ever seen James Woods' face. Attempts at humour either fall completely flat, prompt a disapproving head-shake, a facepalm or accidentally work which means that the whole thing is completely hit-and-miss lol-wise but at least it knows to keep things light.
With a solid cast and relentless, very entertaining action sequences, White House Down may not be the smartest film of the year but it delivers exactly what it needed to: goofy-ass fun. Perfect for a light-hearted Friday night cinema outing or a rental for a bunch of friends with beers and crisps nearby to munch on.