“White House Down”, Roland Emmerich’s latest CGI action smorgasbord, carries with it a certain sense of nostalgia. It’s not nostalgia in a good way, like when a happy couple remembers their first date, but instead borders on that quasi-nauseous sensation one gets after realizing things will never be like the good ol’ days.
Sony, however, does not share in this opinion. Apparently the executives behind “White House Down” loved “Olympus Has Fallen” - last March’s White House destruction flick – so much, they decided to make another one. Just like 2011’s “No Strings Attached”/“Friends With Benefits” double dose of the same concept, the major Hollywood studio continues the plagiarizing trend with this Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx starrer.
Emmerich, however, tries to take a more humanist approach with his cinematic defacement of America’s most historic government landmark. For most of the first act, the audience is dragged along as Channing Tatum’s Cale character tries to reconcile his flakey fatherly presence in his daughter’s (Joey King) preteen life by taking her to the White House for the day. It’s not that Channing Tatum or Joey King do a bad job playing on-screen father and daughter, but in a movie called “White House Down,” people don’t care about blog related generational humor and snappy family quips. They want to see explosions.
When the most recent addition to the G.I. Joe franchise is teamed up with Django Unchained himself, there is no room for any underlying family drama. Emmerich —the director who has made a living blowing things up on a large scale in movies like “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow”— was able to succeed in pumping human feeling into a film like “Independence Day” because Will Smith, at the time, wasn’t the movie star he is today.
The stars of “White House Down” are different. Both Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx have feature film backgrounds where they play characters that are extremely adept at killing people. When they are suddenly expected to play characters that would rather hug it out than fight to the death, the audience cannot be expected to play along. This is also completely glancing over the decision to cast Jamie Foxx as the President of The United States of America, but who knows, some fans might actual like seeing the same celebrity that sung “Gold Digger” take the highest office.
Even if Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx were new comers to the action genre, Roland Emmerich’s preachy peace-filled first act is all but rendered useless with his decision to pack the remainder of the movie with mindless, stunt heavy violence.
Somewhere between a White House tour guide beating a terrorist up with a Ming Dynasty era pot and President Jamie Foxx shooting a rocket launcher out of a moving car, Emmerich’s quest for goodwill gets lost in all the pointless destruction.
There’s a time and place for everything. Unfortunately, for a film like “White House Down”, it missed out on both by about three months. As a result, it will be forever remembered as ”that other White House” movie. Where’s the nostalgia in that?
By David Morris