Roland Emmerich is not a director whose movies win the hearts and minds of critics. 2012, 10,000 BC, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW are pretty mindless, boorish, loud, overlong action movies that combine heavy CGI effects with a squidgy slurpy schmaltzy underbelly. It's fair to say that WHITE HOUSE DOWN combines all the worst elements of these previous movies and adds a few more. Every line of dialogue is cheesy. Every character is a caricature. Every situation implausible. And yet, and yet.... I enjoyed every single minute of WHITE HOUSE DOWN. I laughed at it and with it. I cared about its main characters. I was genuinely surprised by one of its plot twists. And when the geeky tour guide finally manned up with a gun I was cheering on the inside. For me, WHITE HOUSE DOWN is the DIE HARD of this decade - good-hearted wholesome, cheesy action fun. I can't recommend it highly enough!
The plot is, of course, worryingly similar to this summer's earlier White House Under Attack movie, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. Channing Tatum plays a security guard called John Cale with dreams of protecting the President, partly because he's just a gosh-darn patriot, and partly because he wants to impress his plucky little super-patriotic daughter Emily (Joey King). On the morning that he's rejected from the Secret Service by old flame Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Cale and his daughter find themselves in the White House when a disgruntled employee decides to take the President hostage. This allows Cale (and his daughter) to prove just what a hero he is.
Of course, Channing Tatum is perfect for this role, looking good in a wife-beater but also pulling off the wholesome charm of a loving father. I also really liked Joey King as his daughter, very much styled in the Alyssa Milano- COMMANDO role. But the real hilarity comes from Jamie Foxx who geeks up as peace-loving President Sawyer - a liberal fantasy President who wants to bring peace to the Middle East and earns the wrath of the military-industrial complex. There are endless scenes where Foxx plays it for laughs, struggling to turn action hero, earning Cale's mockery.
In fact, it's worth saying that this movie is really funny. There are hilariously stupid lines:
Bad guy number one: Cake?
Bad guy number two: No, I don't want cake! I'm diabetic!
Or this one from President Sawyer: Get your hands off my Jordans!
As well as the visual brilliance of seeing the Leader of the Free World racing round the White House lawn in a pimped out hummer shooting a rocket launcher. The word for this film is Ridonkulous. But all that hilarity and the slurpy schmaltzy patriotism shouldn't blind you to the fact that it's actually very well made. The CGI effects are spectacular but don't overwhelm the story. There are just enough great character actors (Richard Jenkins, Jason Clarke) to keep it this side of spoof. And I like the way that little plot details come back to be of significance, and even minor characters, such as the tour guide, have complete narrative arcs.
So, don't be put off by Emmerich's back catalogue. If you loved early 80s action flicks, and go with the intention of having a good time, WHITE HOUSE DOWN is the movie for you!
WHITE HOUSE DOWN has a running time of 131 minutes and is rated PG-13.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN was released earlier this year pretty much everywhere. It opens on September 11th in Belgium; on September 12th in the Netherlands; on September 13th in the UK and Ireland; on September 19th in Denmark and Greece; on September 20th in Norway, Sweden and Venezuela; on September 26th in Italy and on November 1st in Bulgaria.