'White House Down' a silly throwback 

click to enlarge Channing Tatum, left, and Jamie Foxx star in the preposterous but kind of fun "White House Down." - COURTESY PHOTO
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  • Channing Tatum, left, and Jamie Foxx star in the preposterous but kind of fun "White House Down."

Staggeringly implausible, cartoonishly comical, Roland Emmerich's "White House Down" is refreshingly dumb.

There's an inarguable, senseless pleasure in watching Jamie Foxx, as the president of the United States, kicking a terrorist and shouting: "Get your hands off my Jordans!"

"White House Down" follows Antoine Fuqua's "Olympus Has Fallen" as the second movie this year to imagine an assault on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The films are similarly plotted, but "White House Down" is less serious, content to acknowledge its own inherent preposterousness.

This crystalizes around the time Foxx's President James Sawyer and his rescuer, Channing Tatum's wannabe Secret Service agent, are careening across the White House lawn in the president's limo while terrorists shoot in pursuit.

"White House Down" is most entertaining when it's a simple, ludicrous buddy movie, with Tatum and Foxx fleeing across the White House grounds, dropping one-liners as they go, eluding assailants led by a bitter turncoat (James Woods) and his ferocious henchmen.

Tatum has now reached the level that he can breeze through a blatantly silly movie and look none the worse for it. He's John Cale (not to be confused with the Velvet Underground musician, although, how could you?), a Silver Star veteran of Afghanistan and a police bodyguard to the speaker of the house (Richard Jenkins).

For his Secret Service interview at the White House, he's brought along his politics-obsessed 11-year-old daughter (the promising Joey King).

But it goes poorly, partly because his would-be boss turns out to be an old flame (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who doubts he's grown up. When the Capitol dome is detonated and the White House invaded, Cale is separated from his daughter and stumbles into the kidnapping of the president.

From there, it's a series of chases through the halls of the White House, where golden light filters in through venetian blinds but seemingly scant security measures exist.

Emmerich, director of spectacles like "Independence Day" (a movie he references in "White House Down") and "2012," has made blowing up the White House something of a fetish, and this film feels dated, like a '90s kind of big-budget movie that depends on explosions, flashes of comedy and star charisma.

The charm of Tatum — toned but goofy — carries the film. Foxx, a more gifted comic actor, is left off-screen for large chunks.

If "White House Down" had pushed the farce further, Emmerich's overlong romp could have been something special. But the comedy only comes in spurts.


White House Down

(two stars)

Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lance Reddick, Richard Jenkins, James Woods

Written by James Vanderbilt

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Rated PG-13

Running time 2 hours, 17 minutes

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