Fanboy Flick Pick: Thumbs Way Down for White House Down

By Luke Y. Thompson in Movies
Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 5:49 pm


There had to be at least one big movie this summer that would be an unabashed disaster - an epitome of awful Hollywood cliche and Unthinking Screenwriting 101 so egregious that Michael Bay himself would likely spit on it. Congratulations, Roland Emmerich: White House Down is a movie so poorly conceived and executed, so soon after another movie did the same story but better (and even it was a B-movie at best) that you have actually befuddled some major critics into thinking that you're doing brilliant parody, two words that should and will never come within a country mile of describing anything you do. Dumb fun is one thing, and I'm all for action movies that aren't especially logical if they bring some good sequences to bear (see my review of the last Die Hard for a prime example). But you have to embody the label - it doesn't work if you only remember the dumb part, and leave fun at home.

Instead of Gerard Butler as an actual Secret Service agent, we get Channing Tatum as John Cale, a guy who wants to be a Secret Service agent, and demonstrates his commitment to security by bringing his 11 year-old daughter to the job interview and letting her wander off. Said daughter has lived her entire life in Washington DC, is a politics nerd to the point of Rain Man-like babbling, yet has never once actually been to the White House, clearly because her parents are the worst ever (also, dad neglected to come watch her in a flag-twirling contest. I shit you not).

James Woods is not amused.

So after the interview, it's a daddy-daughter day on the White House tour, but unfortunately for them the White House is only guarded by the Keystone Kops, who are powerless to do much when a gang of terrorists who look like gay German bikers invade, under the highly clever ruse of being dressed like TV repairmen. Also, did you know a small explosive in a janitor's cart can collapse the entire Capitol dome from inside? Nor did anyone in this movie except the insane bad guys.

This fictional world is in a state of turmoil - President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx, capturing Obama's cadences but not his gravitas) has announced that he is unilaterally pulling all U.S. troops out of the Middle East, because he has made a deal with the new president of Iran. Who on earth could possibly oppose such a plan? Just racists and the military industrial complex, that's who. It's probably folly to take this ridiculously simplistic view of geopolitics seriously, but I have lived in Europe, and know many who do think this way; it's not a stretch to suspect the German-born Emmerich might.


Anyway, before the day is through, the black president will have donned his Air Jordans (again, I shit you not) to team with John Cale and realize that sometimes you have to kill people to get your way, because apparently it wasn't covered at any point in his term that the commander in chief is invariably responsible for some deaths. Meanwhile, outside the White House, the Veep (Michael Murphy) and House Speaker (Richard Jenkins) have to decide when and how to declare the president dead if they lose contact with him.

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