White House Down is, quite simply, a guilty pleasure that transcends critical analysis. The plot is preposterous. The dialogue is cheesy. And if you saw Olympus Has Fallen, then you’ll surely find yourself in a constant state of déjà vu. No matter. It is what it is… a mindless opportunity to put a little Channing in your Tatum (you can blame Jimmy Kimmel’s viral video for that reference!). White House Down won’t win any awards outside the MTV variety, but it can satisfy a craving for a fun, chick-flicky action movie with guy and gal appeal. It’ll stick with you about as long as a bag of popcorn. But once in a while, that’s okay. Here’s the gist:
Channing Tatum (Magic Mike, Side Effects) plays John Cale, a Capitol Hill police officer and military veteran who desperately wants to join the President’s Secret Service detail. He pulls some strings to get a job interview at the White House and also scores two tickets for the White House tour, for himself and his daughter Emily (Joey King), a pint-size political junkie and smartass.
First, the interview doesn’t go so hot. And then, John and Emily get separated, just as a bunch of heavily-armed terrorists invade the White House, intent on capturing the President, stealing some nuclear launch codes, and disrupting a Middle East peace plan. Cale manages to evade the bad guys to go in search of his daughter. He stumbles across the President (Jamie Foxx) instead, and the two embark on a bullet and rocket-launcher-riddled buddy adventure to save Democracy, the World… and Emily.
The supporting cast is solid – including Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins and James Woods. Lesser-known actor Nicolas Wright provides a scene-stealing breath of fresh air as the enthusiastic White House tour guide. Tatum, Foxx and King each have their moments as well. Overall, the cast helps elevate a script that pales against the prose of a standard episode of The West Wing or 24. But in this case, a little eye candy and levity-in-the-midst-of-disaster really does go a long way.
White House Down is a lighter, more sanitized (graphically speaking) version of Olympus Has Fallen. If you like one, chances are you’ll like the other. Just don’t watch them back-to-back. That would be overkill.