August 04, 2013

MOVIES: White House Down (Roland Emmerich, 2013)

White House Down is a dumb popcorn movie, and there's nothing remotely surprising about it -- it is essentially Die Hard in the White House -- but as such things go, it's mostly fun. The supporting cast is better than a movie like this needs (Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Richard Jenkins, Jason Clarke), and Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx play the leads -- respectively, a would-be Secret Service agent and the US President -- with their usual charisma. The movie finds moderately creative ways to get all of the action movie cliches into a movie set almost entirely on the grounds of the White House; we even get a fairly good car chase.

I was bothered by the way the movie uses the character of Tatum's daughter; I get that we need to put someone sympathetic in jeopardy to give Tatum his motivation, but even in that context, watching a kid being beaten and manhandled by grown men yanks me out of the escapist mood. And there was no reason the character needed to be a kid; it just needed to be someone Tatum cared about enough to fight for, and whose respect he needed to earn -- a parent, a wife, a sibling. Make it, for instance, the younger college-educated brother who Tatum thinks has never respected him, and you've got the same story dynamic in a way that doesn't make you cringe when you watch.

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