White House Down Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, James Woods. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.
Three months ago, Gerard Butler played a troubled Secret Service agent who was the only guy capable of saving the U.S. president from a terrorist incursion into the White House in the mostly terrible Olympus Has Fallen. White House Down offers up an identical premise, with Channing Tatum as the troubled agent (in this case, a member of the Capitol Police hoping to land a Secret Service job) who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time when terrorists take over the White House and capture the president (Jamie Foxx). White House Down has a bigger budget and a longer running time than Olympus Has Fallen, and it’s directed by action-blockbuster maestro Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012).
Other than that, it sticks pretty closely to the same “Die Hard in the White House” formula, complete with sneering, cartoonish bad guys (led by a hammy James Woods), a cute child in peril, lame one-liners, “shocking” plot twists and a looming international crisis. Tatum is from the same slab-of-beef school of acting as Butler, and Foxx is a little too glib as the leader of the free world. The supporting cast is full of talented actors (including Maggie Gyllenhaal and Richard Jenkins) standing around looking concerned.
Emmerich manages to stage a variety of large-scale action sequences in his limited location (he even throws in a car chase on the White House lawn), but the plotting is incoherent and laughable, the characters are one-dimensional, and the special effects are surprisingly chintzy (even though they look better than Olympus Has Fallen). By the time the second or third over-the-top climactic battle arrives, the movie has gone from dumb fun to just plain dumb.