Movie Review: ‘White House Down’ is an Action-Packed Absurdity, Critics Say [Video]

NEW YORK | Friday, June 28th, 2013 3:23pm EDT

Roland Emmerich’s latest action movie is essentially a louder, sillier version of the Bruce Willis classic.

It’s unlikely anyone was expecting master disaster director Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “2012”) and action-comedy hunk Channing Tatum (“G.I. Joe,” “21 Jump Street”) to deliver a tense, realistic political thriller in “White House Down,” the second movie this year about terrorists besieging the Oval Office while a lone hero tries to save the free world.

It’s unlikely anyone was expecting master disaster director Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “2012”) and action-comedy hunk Channing Tatum (“G.I. Joe,” “21 Jump Street”) to deliver a tense, realistic political thriller in “White House Down,” the second movie this year about terrorists besieging the Oval Office while a lone hero tries to save the free world.

Channing Tatum, who is becoming a very canny star, is smart enough to play to his perceived weaknesses, too, embodying a beefy character who no one thinks is very serious or very smart. And while Jamie Foxx is clearly an Obama stand-in, right down to the Nicorette gum, he also adds his own bit of snap and grit.

There are also a number of veteran character actors, including James Woods — rocking a very old-school H.R. Haldeman buzzcut — Michael Murphy, and the always-welcome Richard Jenkins, writes NJ.

Emmerich and screenwriter James Vanderbilt (“The Amazing Spider-Man”) rip off “Die Hard” beat for beat. The entire film is merely an excuse for Tatum to squeeze off machine-gun rounds in a muscle-baring tank top, Foxx to do his cool-cat Obama impression right down to chomping on Nicorette, and Emmerich to revel in what he does best — blast the sets (and plausibility) to kingdom come.

Film critics agree that “White House Down” is exceedingly implausible and cartoonishly action-packed.

The New York TimesManohla Dargis agrees that the film “is as demented and entertaining as promised, and a little less idiotic than feared.”

Dargis calls the screenplay “amusingly topical” — it features a black president, played by Jamie Foxx, and a controversial Middle East peace plan — and says of Emmerich, “There’s a satisfying bluntness to his expediency that complements Mr. Tatum’s guileless on-screen persona as he assumes the mantle, or rather the sweat-stained white tank top, once worn by Bruce Willis”

Richard Roeper gave the film an “F” after viciously calling it a lesser version of “Olympus Has Fallen.” “Everyone in “White House Down” is an idiot, clinically insane, a cliché, or a vehicle for shameless exploitation,” he says.

Time Out’s Keith Uhlich isn’t a fan of the CGI. He wrote: “It doesn’t help that all the action scenes, as with many modern Hollywood blockbusters, are seemingly edited with a Cuisinart, or that the copious CGI would barely pass muster in one of those Asylum DTV quickies. Cheap, shoddy, dull, instantly forgettable—this is the America, and American cinema, we know all too well.”

Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post, however, says that “‘White House Down’ never quite seems to decide what kind of movie it wants to be.”

On the one hand, it has enough destruction to qualify as “this summer’s most cartoonishly bombastic exercise in sensory overload (so far)”; on the other hand, it also “clearly wants to be a lighthearted comedy. At least that seems to be the aim in a film that, in the midst of sadistic violence, throws in jokes and bits of buddy humor as blithely as its protagonists toss those grenades.”

Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx’s new movie “White House Down” comes to theaters Friday.

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