Remember when you were in high school and that one big summer blockbuster came out? You and all your friends rushed out opening day to see it? You had so much fun that when you left the theater to get pizza slices, you and your friends would talk about it the whole time? I'm talking about movies like Independence Day, Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, Die Hard, Pirates of the Caribbean or Armageddon. Those movies were loud, exciting, fun, flashy and cheesey. They all had quotable lines, big stars and ridiculous plots that you justified at the time because you were having a blast. Well, White House Down captures what those hot summer nights with friends felt like and makes you feel like a teenager again.
Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Patriot) seems to be one of the masters of mayhem when it comes to f**king s**t up; especially the White House which he has now destroyed four times in his movies. What sets him a cut above other disaster kings like Michael Bay (Transformers, Armageddon) or Wolfgang Peterson (Posideon, Perfect Storm) is that he seems aware of what kind of movie he's making and takes a slightly tongue-in-cheek approach to it. He's had his missteps along the way; such as 2012, Day After Tomorrow and 10,000 BC, but overall is the best at depicting mass destruction because he's made his whole carreer on it. He doesn't destroy the world in White House Down but he does turn the most famous residence in America into an all-out war zone that matches the chaos his other films have given us.
Channing Tatum proves he has the chops to be a John McClain-esque badass as he plays a Capital Policeman trying to save the President, played by Jamie Foxx, after domestic terrorists take the whole place hostage. The two of them are an extrememly likable duo that command every frame of the action. James Woods (Any Given Sunday, Casino), who is now an elderly person (he's jarringly old now, sadly), is a fantastic villain but I'm not sure he's ever given a bad performance. He's joined by some great baddies who feature the fantastic Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby) and hilarious Jimmi Simpson (FX's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Date Night) as well.
There are moments of White House Down that are head-shakingly cheesey and even lines like, "You only have five minutes to save the world or the White House is gonna be destroyed" are screamed in a panic but you don't care and embrace them if you can loose yourself in a bloated action movie. The perfect amount of humor is injected by Foxx and Tatum to remind you that you shouldn't take any of this seriously and to just sit there and chomp your popcorn while you have fun. That's a little ironic though because White House Down does have something to say about politics and has undertones of an agenda. Stabs at the Military Industrial Complex, right wing nutjobs, Fox News/Glenn Beck (not by name but as a character that looks and acts just like him who is a favorite of one of the terrorists), and similarities to President Obama are all laid out in fairly clear nods.
I don't expect everyone to enjoy White House Down as much as I did and that's fine. Maybe I was feeling a little nostalgic when I saw it and wished my high school buddies Joe, Jason, Craig, John and Sean were sitting next to me during the screening but the fact that it even made me feel that way again says a lot. In the new world of summertime Hollywood that is just sequels and superheros, it's refreshing to see something just as tawdry and silly come out that's at least original is refreshing and completely worth a screening or two. White House Down (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A+