'White House Down' review: Formulaic, absurd fun
If you're able to turn your brain off for two hours, 'White House Down' is an incredibly fun summer action flick.
In short: A Capitol policeman (Channing Tatum) must save his daughter (Joey King) and the U.S. President (Jamie Foxx) after terrorists take over the White House (watch the trailer)
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The key to enjoying 'White House Down' is ignore or sedate the logic-center of your brain. This doesn't mean overlooking major plot holes, but rather, not questioning how terrorists are able to get powerful explosives and artillery within 5 miles of the White House in the first place.
Once the brain is sedated, this silly and absurd ride can be really entertaining. A tank battle at the White House gates, a crazy car chase/shootout on the WH lawn and attack helicopters flying just over the streets of DC are among the ridiculous/implausible sequences in his popcorn flick. And the President wields a rocket launcher - yeah, it's that kind ofmovie.
Even though Tatum and Foxx are on the movie's one-sheet poster, their characters are pretty thin. They're charming, which makes them easy to root for, but they're little more than 'the good guy' and 'the President.' Thankfully the great (if over-the-top) James Woods, Oscar-nominee Richard Jenkins and young actress Joey King pull more than their own weight. And 'White House' features one of the few child characters who is smart, fun to follow and capable of making decisions that keep the adventure moving forward - she isn't just a damsel in distress.
The engine of 'White House' is its escalating threat. What begins as a hostage crisis quickly becomes increasingly more dangerous - not just to the hostages within 1600 Pennsylvania, but DC as a whole and eventually the entire free world. In evolving the crisis beyond just a hostage situation allows 'White House' to maintain an entertaining energy and pace.
If one were to nitpick this intentional popcorn flick, then the film's brisk pacing is as much a blessing as it is a curse. By denying the characters even the slightest time for decision making - which would reveal their character or inner conflict - many of their decisions are simply survival instinct reactions.
In short: Very little about 'White House Down' is original or grounded in anything resembling reality, nevertheless, this action flick rides a wave of its own absurdity for a fun summer movie.