Movie review: 'White House Down' is a fun summer distraction

For the News-DemocratJune 27, 2013 

What It's About

Wonder of wonders! Highly entertaining, "White House Down" is precisely what a summer blockbuster should be.

A paramilitary group takes over the White House and all hell breaks loose in our nation's capital. As government agents try to figure out what's going on, D.C. cop John Cale (Channing Tatum) is on tour in the presidential residence, along with his feisty 12-year-old daughter Emily (Joey King), a huge American history buff.

Suddenly, he's protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) while trying to find his daughter. The cop and Commander-in-Chief team up to bring down the bad guys in a fast-paced, funnier-than-you-expect action-adventure movie.

Performances

Channing Tatum ("Magic Mike") is proving that he's more than beefcake as an action hero in the "Die Hard" mold. As a decorated ex-Marine who did a couple tours of Afghanistan, he unleashes the charm as well as the ripped physique. He's believable as a divorced cop aspiring to become a Secret Service agent. He developed his character nicely.

So did charismatic Jamie Foxx ("Ray"), who is smooth as the president, able to quickly get out of harm's way and toss off quips, too. He's one of the few actors comfortable with comedy, action and drama. He rarely missteps.

Moving into the spotlight is Joey King ("Crazy Stupid Love"), who keeps it real as the precocious preteen thrown into dangerous situations.

Veteran character actors James Woods, Richard Jenkins and Michael Murphy excel at their important roles -- head of White House Secret Service Detail, Speaker of the House and Vice-President.

What Works

In his best film since "Independence Day," Roland Emmerich shows a reverence for democracy and the awe-inspiring monuments to our government for the people, by the people. There are more than a few patriotic swells of pride here as the camera swoops for panoramic shots of our nation's capital.

The film, written by screenwriter James Vanderbilt ("The Amazing Spider-Man"), also deftly adds humor -- and it is brilliantly timed. When the Obama-like president switches to tennis shoes in the heat of battle, everyone applauded. This is an amusing "popcorn" film -- a crowd pleaser that's well-suited for summertime viewing.

What Doesn't Work

It may be a little too predictable for some tastes, and it follows another similar-themed film, "Olympus Has Fallen." (But is far more entertaining.)

The visual effects are impressive, and the action is mostly non-stop, but the fighting escalates in such preposterous ways that we're ready for the conclusion long before the film decides it's time to end.

3 1/2 stars out of 4

Director: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Channing Tatum, James Woods, Jamie Foxx, Jason Clarke, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins

Rated: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image.

Length: 2:11

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