The entertaining Channing Tatum is an actor who always seems to give 100 percent, but sometimes 100 percent isn't enough, as in the case of White House Down, a cheesy action film that fails at being smart or original. Tatum stars as John Cale, a single dad in DC who is also a hopeful applicant for a Secret Service job. He kills two birds with one stone when he takes his daughter (Joey King) on a White House tour on the same day as his interview. The job interview doesn't go smoothly, due to a tough-as-nails security detail member (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and John's day gets a lot worse when mysterious terrorists attack the White House, intending to take the president (Jamie Foxx) hostage. It's a couple of crazy coincidences to build a movie on, and it just goes downhill from there.
Wouldn't you know: with just a few years of military experience, a great set of biceps, and bravery, Cale goes rogue during the attack and takes on the terrorists to save his daughter and the commander in chief. It's about as likely as, well, your dad becoming a sudden superhero and saving the president and scores of people. It would be excusable if it was more fun, but it's not. Find out why else I was disappointed by White House Down after the jump.
The dialogue of the movie is awful, even with Tatum and the equally charming Foxx giving it everything they've got. These two are both delightful to watch, with Tatum perfectly filling the part of action hero with the requisite elements (big muscles, smooth moves, good looks) and Foxx doing an earnest homage to Obama. Together, they're even better, but when Tatum has to utter contrived lines like, "I guess I will vote for you now," and Foxx delivers stale president jokes, you just feel sorry for them. Foxx and Tatum make the movie bearable, but they're better than this material.
The characters are all thinly drawn, but Gyllenhaal probably has it the worst. Her character makes very little sense; there's no reason given for her dismissiveness of Cale early in the movie, and a few seeds that are planted about her — like her single-and-hopeless love life and the fact that she and Cale had known each other in college — are never resolved. It's frustrating, to say the least.
The terrorist plot is too heavy for the action to be enjoyable; it's hard to revel in the special effects of an explosion when the depicted explosion is of the Capitol building, children are screaming, and every security guard on the premises of the White House is being shot to bits. It's disturbing and works on a level that stresses out the audience — and worse, the actual plot of the terrorists is so large scale that it's silly and not one bit believable. However, I will give credit to White House Down for not being boring, but when the elements that are keeping your attention are cliché and dumb, it's not exactly a mission accomplished.