White House Down Review
by Robert Hass
It may have some brief funny lines/moments, nice chemistry between its two leads, and some passably watchable action, but White House Down is still a stupid, overlong, and extremely forgettable brainless thriller with a very generic plot, a cliche ridden and idiotic screenplay, uneven special effects, and bombastic direction.
Like many of Emmerich's previous yarns, White House Down is an overstuffed slab of star-spangled cheese. Not worth the price of admission, skip it.
The story: The story for Die Hard meets the White House...I mean, Olympus has Fallen...I mean White House Down may sound familiar to you...just maybe. Post military, Speaker of the House guarding, and divorced father, John Cale (Channing Tatum), wants to upgrade to a Secret Service agent, and in the process become closer to his reluctant, politics loving daughter. On the day that he goes to apply for the job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it just so happens that it is taken over by hostile threats. After hostages are gathered up by the terrorists, the only people left on their own are Cale, and none other than the President, James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx), himself. Now with the help of the POTUS, John must save the fate of his daughter, his president, himself, and possibly his country. Let jingoistic mayhem ensue.
The good: White House down has many attempts at humor, and while a lot of the jokes miss, a few hit and provide some chuckle-worthy moments. Tatum and Foxx also have fine chemistry and work off of each other well throughout the chaotic action. While there are many better and more entertaining renditions of this type of film, I guess at its core, it does provide the lowest form of watchable summer fluff, but only in terms of its bullet-scattered set pieces.
The bad: Where to start; you've pretty much seen everything in this film. The plot, while if executed enjoyably gets cut some slack, but in this case is incredibly formulaic and convoluted, and its screenplay certainly doesn't do it any justice. The script has very short moments of quirky jokes, but still is filled with stupid, trite dialogue/plotting, and just cheese-covered cliche after cliche. Some moments are so silly they will have you chuckling, and most of the time I mean unintentionally. If you even care about it, the story just becomes ridiculous by the end and leaves a bunch of unexplained potholes in its path. This also is caused by its choppy editing and execution. Many scenes skip around in a messy fashion and this ends up making a lot of the action and films structure incoherent. As for the action, while there are some cool kills and some scenes that are mildly entertaining, they still are sloppily structured at times and have a lack of visceral excitement that I wanted. The special effects also hurt the set-pieces as they are unexpectedly inconsistant. Usually in a Roland Emmerich film, I watch it for and expect it to have big-scale, quality effects, but this film just disappointed. While there are a few fine uses of it, many shots looked straight out of a video game and may leave you rolling your eyes. Also the pacing of the film becomes tasking due to its bloated and annoyingly long runtime. There easily could have been 35 minutes shaven from this baby, and when it slows down, you can tell. It's length just wasn't necessary and looses the taut tension that usually goes along with these action flicks, but I shouldn't be surprised as it is like a calling card for Emmerich. On the subject of him, the direction, as per usual, becomes overstuffed and tries to mix in goofy laughs with serious dramatic (and signature patriotic) moments, and the result is laughable and just hammy. Sometimes his style can work out for summer films, but with this one, he missed his heavy-handed mark.
My take: White House Down can be a guilty pleasure at times, but still it is idiotic and forgettable. The plot and writing are dumb, the action is average, the effects become shoddy, and the direction is tacky. You've seen it done before, and done better.
Note: I haven't seen Olympus Has Fallen, but want to soon as a comparison, hopefully this won't be a hard act to follow.
V/H/S 2 (rental and in theaters)
White House Down
Redemption (rental and in theaters)
World War Z
Man of Steel
Fast and Furious 6
The Great Gatsby
Iron Man 3
Dead Man Down
Europa Report (rental and in theaters 8/2)
Redemption (On rental and in theaters)
GI: Joe Retaliation (available 7/30)
V/H/S 2 (rental and in theaters)
Oz: The Great and Powerful
The Last Stand
The goal for this blog is for me to deliver more direct movie summaries that skip more of the fluff and deliver the goods. The story, the good, the bad, and my overall take on it. For those of you who just want to know if you should see it or not, read the ratings and headlines of the films. Click read more if you want to see the details about the reviews.
My name is Robert, but friends call me Vern. I'm a proud cinefile (not as creepy as it sounds...) I write, direct and edit movies. When I'm not doing that, I'm watching movies -- as many as I can -- and reviewing them here for you. I've found that my tastes are unpredictable; conventional to bizarre, formulaic to abstract, old-school to ahead of the curve. I've seen enough to have perspective but am still young enough to need a lift to the theater. Let me know what you think.