Roland Emmerich may never win an Oscar (I’m going out on a limb here), but he gets my vote as the greatest practitioner of good bad movies working in Hollywood today. I don’t mean that as a backhanded compliment. Seriously. It takes a certain kind of genius to crank out blockbusters as spectacularly silly as Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012. And the main difference between Emmerich and fellow maestros of mayhem like Michael Bay is that he actually seems to be in on the joke. He knows his movies are preposterous nonsense and he embraces it.
In his latest big-budget excuse to blow up 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, White House Down, Emmerich doesn’t waste time with anything as conventional as a setup; he just dives right in, introducing us to Channing Tatum’s John Cale, a divorced Capitol police officer itching to be a Secret Service agent to impress his daughter (Joey King). While his job interview in the West Wing is going south, right-wing mercenaries take over the White House demanding $400 million. Meanwhile, Cale’s daughter has been taken hostage and the president (Jamie Foxx) is left unguarded. Guess who steps in to protect the POTUS?
Emmerich and screenwriter James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-Man) rip off Die Hard beat for beat. But when you’re having this much fun, why quibble? The entire film is merely an excuse for Tatum to squeeze off machine-gun rounds in a muscle-baring tank top, Foxx to do his cool-cat Obama impression right down to chomping on Nicorette, and Emmerich to revel in what he does best — blast the sets (and plausibility) to kingdom come. Comparisons between this and last March’s similarly themed Olympus Has Fallen are going to be inevitable, so let me just say that Emmerich’s is the D.C. disaster flick to see. Skip it, and you’ll be depriving yourself of one of the summer’s most satisfyingly stupid pleasures. B-