Please pass the cheese. Or should I say, I wish director Roland Emmerich knew when to stop passing the cheese, then frying it with explosions and shooting it to smithereens.
Not since Emmerich's “The Day After Tomorrow” came out in 2004 have I seen such an eye-rollingly bad movie that I mostly enjoyed watching in spite of myself.
I'm talking about “White House Down,” in which Channing Tatum plays Cale, an Afghan war veteran and Capitol policeman who wants to join the Secret Service.
After he flunks the interview, a group of terrorists seizes control just as Cale and his estranged young daughter, Emily (Joey King), are separated during a White House tour.
Cale ends up being the president's only hope of survival, though he's often conflicted by trying to find and save his daughter as well.
Tatum is a likable action hero, Jamie Foxx is a humorous foil as a peace-loving president out of his element, and King does a nice job as a freaked-out little girl with spirit.
Emmerich's formula for raking in big bucks is to appeal to people's sense of patriotism or nationalism while watching iconic landmarks get destroyed. Meanwhile, our hero saves both the world and the kid in jeopardy. “Independence Day” is probably Emmerich's best example of this, while “2012” might be his worst.
What's good about “White House Down?” Well, the shock-thrill you get watching a bomb go off in the Capitol rotunda, or those really bad guys laying waste to room after room in the White House, plus the lawn, the fountain, the perimeter fence, several tunnels underneath, the roof overhead, the president's private living quarters, the West Wing — pretty much the whole place eventually.
Also an overly zealous White House tour guide, played by scene stealer Nicolas Wright. Pretty funny.
What's bad about “White House Down?” Stereotypes taken two steps too far, such as James Woods as the traitorous head of the president's Secret Service detail, Jason Clarke as his sneering henchman and Lance Reddick as a stuffed-shirt general.
“You just killed the secretary of defense!” someone exclaims.
“Well, he wasn't doing a very good job,” comes the rejoinder.
At least the movie doesn't take itself too seriously, which saves it several times, as when Foxx repeatedly kicks at a terrorist clinging to his tennis shoes and yells, “Take your hands off my Jordans!”
Or how about Tatum admonishing the president, “Can you not hit me in the head with that rocket launcher while I'm trying to drive?”
Droll. But undone by the little kid unfurling a flag, a la “Les Miserables,” on the White House lawn to wave off attacking military choppers, which blithely ignore orders at the sight of that tear-stained face. As if.
The overstuffed plot with one too many twists (and endings) isn't just cheese, it's swiss cheese, to the point that it became pointless to say one more time, “That would never happen,” or “That's not realistic,” or “That makes no sense at all.”
And the preaching isn't subtle about anti-federal militia nutcases or the military-industrial complex that wants to keep making war at all costs. Or about how strong America is, able to overcome anything.
Emmerich is German. The movie was mostly filmed in Canada. So much for that battle cry of USA, USA.
Still, I was having fun until the last half hour or so, when my eyes got tired of the big roll.