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Article by Teddy Durgin

'White House Down' Loses By a Landslide

I thought going into my recent screening of "White House Down" that this would be a fairly easy movie to critique. Just pull up my review of "Olympus Has Fallen" from March and switch out the character and actor names, right? After all, both movies are about terrorists taking over the White House. Both movies feature a young kid character in mortal jeopardy. And both movies feature a lone, John McClane-esque hero holed up inside of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. who is the only hope to defeat the terrorists and save the President. And you know what? I'm lazy. And that's exactly what I'm gonna do! I'm kidding, of course! The two movies are as different as "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact," "Mirror Mirror" and "Snow White and the Huntsman," "Tombstone" and "Wyatt Earp," "Big" and "Like Father, Like Son." Those were all flicks that told basically the same story or had the same central premise that were released in the same year or so. In most cases, which one you prefer is a matter of personal taste. I prefer the cheese and bombast of "Armageddon," for example, to the more somber spectacle of "Deep Impact." I prefer the playful, eminently quotable "Tombstone" to the dryer, more serious "Earp." And so forth. As for "White House Down" versus "Olympus Has Fallen?" I give "Olympus" the edge. It has a better cast, a higher body count and a much tighter screenplay than "White House Down," which is a bit awkward in how it devolves into something of a big, dumb buddy comedy. Channing Tatum plays John Cale, a D.C. cop and war veteran on a tour of the White House with his 11-year-old daughter (Joey King) when the terrorist attack takes place. Jamie Foxx is the Obama-lite President James Sawyer who is the target of the takeover. The film is directed by Roland Emmerich of "Independence Day," "Godzilla" and "2012" fame. So, the one thing going for "White House Down" over "Olympus" is that you have a filmmaker who knows how to deliver truly grand-scale action. I don't think Mr. Emmerich will ever get an invite to the Oval Office for all of the damage he has done here and in "ID4." But he's the right man for this kind of film. The problem is the script. At some point in his creative process, screenwriter James Vanderbilt decided that what his "What if?" tale really needed more of was slapstick and campy humor. I honestly can't believe this is the man who wrote "Zodiac." Seriously, would a Commander in Chief under this much duress, with his Oval Office riddled with bullets and terrorists setting up surface-to-air missiles on the roof of the people's house crack jokes and go for the one-liners? I don't think so. There were moments where the audience members I saw this with were laughing at the movie and not with it, which is never a good thing. Even verbally describing the film to my wife such sequences as Cale and Sawyer driving the Presidential limo on the North Lawn and around the White House fountain while being chased by bad guys can't be said without adopting a tone of "Hey, I didn't think this ^$%* up!" Suffice it to say, this is one action movie that is not getting my vote.

"White House Down" is rated PG-13 for action, violence, and language.

 

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