Sometimes movie stars grow on you, with familiarity breeding fondness. It’s taken time but Channing Tatum has finally won me over with his goofy, lunkish charm.
Good thing, too, since he’s front and center in the shameless bonfire of gunfire, explosions and macho hyperbolic heroics that is “White House Down,” the latest over-the-top offering from director-producer-blockbuster specialist Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012”).
Emmerich, of course, notoriously annihilated the White House and most of Washington, D.C., in “Independence Day,” a movie about an extraterrestrial invasion.
In “White House Down,” it’s the Capitol that gets blown up, and this time it’s human bad guys who are the invaders, taking over the White House at gunpoint.
Tatum plays John Cale, a Capitol Hill policeman and Afghanistan War vet who just happens to be accompanying his precocious daughter, Emily (Joey King), on a guided tour of the White House that day. During the course of the tour, President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx), an idealistic former academic who chomps on Nicorette to keep from smoking — hmm, remind you of anyone? — stops by to greet the visitors and grants young Emily a brief interview for her video blog.
Minutes later, a group of heavily armed gunmen, who’d been posing as repairman, put into operation with military precision a takeover of the White House. Pulling out major weaponry, they start firing, slaughtering the President’s entire protective detail and bevies of bureaucrats.
Cale quickly unites with President Sawyer, trying his best to protect the leader of the free world and keep him out of the bad guys’ hands. As the two sneak around the Executive Mansion, trying to elude the gunmen and get to safety, they’re also attempting to figure out what the heck is happening and who’s behind the takeover.
At the same time, in a secure bunker elsewhere, a group of high level security personnel (Maggie Gyllenhaal), military officers (Lance Reddick) and elected figures (Richard Jenkins) gather to investigate the identities and motives of the White House invaders and how best to save the President and the nation.
The cat-and-mouse game in “White House” goes on and on (the movie runs for two hours and 17 minutes), growing more preposterous and silly by the scene. This totally is the stuff of action movies, not real life.
It’s kind of fun, in a dopey way, for a while, but then it’s just noise and firepower and boys with their toys.
As for the acting, Tatum proves a sturdy action hero, stripping down to a sleeveless undershirt in record time and projecting resolute concern. This guy is Aldo Ray all over again, only he’s going to have a longer and more successful career.
Foxx goes with the flow, doing a sly take on the current occupant of the White House, making his President Sawyer both noble and ready to rumble. In supporting roles, Gyllenhaal, Reddick, Jenkins, James Woods and Jason Clarke all deliver when asked to, and Nicolas Wright earns laughs as a know-it-all White House tour guide who’s appalled by the gunmen’s disregard for historical White House antiques.
I’ll give “White House Down” this: For sheer chutzpah, both in terms of product placement and situational believability, it will be hard for any other movie this summer to top a scene in which a bad guy has the temerity to grab President Sawyer by the ankles.
The Commander in Chief, having earlier in the story swapped his heavy dress shoes for pricey, fleet-making sneakers, fights the man off, scolding, “Don’t touch the Jordans!”