'White House Down:' what summer movie filler should be

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By ANDREW LINK (digitalBURG) — It can be difficult to tell from a trailer whether an action movie is going to be worth seeing. They all kind of have that same-y feel. A train derails, a plane explodes, someone says a one-liner while he blasts 50 rounds from a pistol that has infinite ammunition. It’s even more convoluted when the trailer includes scenes that are obviously supposed to be comedic.
Add to that a cast starring Jamie Foxx of “In Living Color” fame and Channing Tatum (that guy from that one movie you saw that you’re pretty sure was a comedy) and it’s anyone’s guess what you’re really buying a ticket to see.
Roland Emmerich as director doesn’t clear things up at all. The man loves disaster movies and not just making them. He lists his top three favorites as destruction films from the ’70s. He was the guy at the helm for “2012,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Independence Day.”
One would expect “White House Down” to be something along the same lines, that sort of under-funded disaster movie where our everyman protagonist comes out on top. So why is there comedy in the trailer and why are we watching two comedy stars crack jokes in front of these explosions? Is Emmerich falling back to his days as executive producer on “Eight Legged Freaks?” Please say no. Please, please don’t let that be it.

If you go to the theater understanding that “White House Down”  is supposed to be a fun, tongue-in-cheek satire, you’ll have a decent time.

Maybe a peek at the writer’s history will shed some light. James Vanderbilt was the pen behind “The Amazing Spiderman.” That’s the one that wasn’t horrible. He also wrote for “Zodiac,” “The Rundown” and is scribbling away on 2014’s redo of “Robocop.” So Vanderbilt has a little history with comedy. Actually, if you consider a vengeful ghost taking the form of the tooth fairy to get PG-13-esque revenge in “Darkness Falls,” he’s a laugh riot.
I think what’s most confusing is that we tend to forget something about the guy on center stage. Jamie Foxx can actually act. No, I’m serious. Sure “Django Unchained” had some humor, but look at what a phenomenal job he did in “Law Abiding Citizen” or “The Soloist.” Foxx is not a typecast, comedy-only actor and, despite how well received many of his films have been, he’s still largely underrated. Not a lot of people will list him as their go-to favorite actor, but he has a tendency to make enjoyable films, which is more than you can even say for some of the legendary names like Sean Connery. Try to rewatch “Highlander.” I dare you.
Oh. Yeah. Channing Tatum, on the other hand. He’s got that massively forgettable face that makes you say, “I don’t remember seeing him in that.” His most recent successes include “This is the End” and “21 Jump Street,” but he’s got a mixed history of throwing salt in our eyes with things like “The Eagle” and “She’s the Man.”
Seriously, casting? You’re putting the dude from “She’s the Man” next to the guy from “The Soloist?”
So we have a director who is primarily known for disaster movies, a writer who doesn’t seem to have produced anything requiring his viewers to have more than two brain cells to rub together, a guy that can do anything, and…and…”She’s the Man.” I hate that I even have to write that title.
If this team couldn’t produce something funny, it had no hope of producing something deep. Fortunately for us, they didn’t try to. “White House Down” should be approached with the consideration that it’s a self-satirizing action-comedy made for the purpose of mocking other action-comedies. It’s predictable and cliché, but it’s this way on purpose.
The film sets up a likely romance between Tatum and Maggie Gyllenhaal, giving their characters a history together and a scene in which Gyllenhaal’s mentor lectures her about making herself available. The romance element seems obvious from the start.
Wrong! Because this is a movie about explosions!
Channing Tatum leapt over more things in a single bound than Henry Cavill in “Man of Steel,” always to explosions or a rain of bullets. Car chases, helicopters being shot down, tanks getting hit with rockets, you know the drill. All this while Tatum and Foxx make wisecracks and solidify their bromance in typical buddy movie fashion.
There’s the temptation to compare “White House Down” with “Olympus Has Fallen,” but it’s not a comparison worth making and I feel that those trying to weigh one against the other are totally missing the point of “White House Down.” There’s no deep political commentary to be had, there’s no romance, there’s no deeper meaning to what you’re seeing on-screen. It’s just Emmerich doing what he does best: destroying everything.
If you go to the theater understanding that “White House Down” is supposed to be a fun, tongue-in-cheek satire, you’ll have a decent time. It’s not going to be the best movie you see this year, but it’s what summer filler should be.
“White House Down” rates 6.2/10.