Movie review: “White House Down”: Hail to the chief

By Columbus Alive
From the June 27, 2013 edition

What is it about the big, dumb, dog days of summer that cause me to lose my good sense and taste and enjoy a big blockbuster more than I should? No matter, “White House Down” is that movie this summer.

Yes, it’s right out of the Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay playbook, and, yes, there was just another movie with an identical plot (“Olympus Has Fallen”), but dammit if I didn’t enjoy it.

It’s basically “Die Hard: With a President.” I’m down with that.

Capital policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum, ladies) aspires to join the Secret Service, in part to be a hero again in the eyes of his young daughter, Emily (Joey King).

When the White House comes under a terrorist attack while Cale and Emily are on a tour, he gets his chance to protect the president (Jamie Foxx) sooner than he expects.

Director Roland Emmerich kicks out his most crowd-pleasing movie since the one that really made him, 1996’s “Independence Day.”

The script by James Vanderbilt feels a lot more like “Die Hard” than “Red Dawn.” It’s a popcorn potboiler with some pretty great twists, and there’s a lot of fun in watching it unfold.

Vanderbilt has written some underappreciated action scripts (“The Losers,” “The Rundown”). He may be this generation’s Shane Black, with exchanges like:

“You just killed the Secretary of Defense.”

“Well, he didn’t do a very good job.”

I would have to guess that this above-par script is what attracted such a strong cast. Tatum continues to climb from eye candy to leading man status, and he feels right at home tossing off pithy one-liners. And Foxx is the perfect mix of presidential gravitas and perfectly delivered humor. He is, after all, the only Oscar winner who was on “In Living Color.” (Sorry, Jim Carrey.)

There’s lots of machine-gun fire and explosions, but there’s a tinge of political intrigue, too. Don’t worry. Not nearly as preachy as Emmerich’s global warming thriller “The Day After Tomorrow.”

In lesser hands (see: Bruckheimer/Bay), this could have been lowest-common-denominator fare, and it’s still a big, dumb action movie at heart, but I had a blast.

I’m also actually excited for the planned “Independence Day” sequels, since Vanderbilt is writing.