By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
You call these things summer movies? Top-heavy superhero and sci-fi sequels crammed with destruction? Tired comedies? A Jazz Age novel turned overwrought 3D hip-hop tragedy? When “Fast and Furious 6” stands out as a high point, there is something wrong with the summer movie season.
This might explain why I feel generous toward Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down,” an enjoyable piece of nonsense.
It’s the second movie of the year with a story line about the storming of the presidential home (“Olympus Has Fallen” tried it, in grim fashion, in March), but let’s overlook that minor issue.
Jamie Foxx plays the president, trapped inside his home during the takeover. His best chance at survival lies with a security guard (Channing Tatum) who bungled his Secret Service job interview earlier in the day but stuck around to take the White House tour with his daughter (Joey King).
Thanks to some juicy plot developments, this thing spirals into a much bigger scenario than the threat against the prexy.
Caught up in the swirl are Secret Service honchos (Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods), the Speaker of the House (Richard Jenkins), an angry ex-Black Ops agent (Jason Clarke, late of “Zero Dark Thirty”) and a White House tour guide named Donnie (Nicolas Wright). It takes all kinds.
A well-organized scheme to seize the executive mansion is carried out, and Channing Tatum is going to die hard before he lets anything happen to his president or his kid. The bad guys have heat-seeking missiles, hacking skills and nuclear codes, so this is not going to be easy.
If you didn’t recall that Roland Emmerich blew up the White House in “Independence Day,” don’t worry, this movie will remind you. Explicitly: Donnie the tour guide says it.
Emmerich is up to his old tricks, cramming glib jokes into a story that flirts with mass murder and the overthrow of the U.S. government. If you thought “Independence Day” presented the final word in executive-branch fighting skills, you have yet to see Jamie Foxx wielding a rocket launcher out the window of the presidential limo while speeding across the White House lawn.
I think we can agree this is ridiculous; certainly Foxx and Tatum aren’t taking things too seriously.
The only way I can defend this popcorn-cruncher is to say it hits a level of pulse-pounding, unpretentious fun and sustains it for 130 minutes. That’s not high cinematic art, but it’s something “Man of Steel” and “The Hangover III” failed to achieve — and it’ll serve nicely for the summer silly season.
“White House Down” (three stars)
The executive mansion is occupied by heavily armed intruders and a security guard (Channing Tatum) must save the prez (Jamie Foxx) from within the building. Director Roland Emmerich sprinkles glib jokes around this grave scenario, but even if the movie is overly silly it hits a certain popcorn-crunching level of unpretentious fun.
Rated: PG-13 for violence, language.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Pacific Place, Sundance, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Casdcade Mall.