By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 26, 2013 at 4:22PM
[Channing Tatum’s] character is a carbon copy of Bruce Willis’ wisecracking John McClane, right down to spending half the movie working up a sweat in a wife-beater. But it’s a snug fit for Tatum, who strikes the right balance between everyman screw-up and quick-thinking, fearless dynamo, equally determined to rescue his daughter and protect the President. And with its secret underground passageways, private chambers and antique-adorned public halls and offices, the White House is a worthy successor to Nakatomi Plaza, still the best of the Die Hard settings.
It’s open season on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue ― yet again ― in Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down,” a slick, high-concept actioner that has the unusual distinction of arriving several months after its bargain-basement knockoff, Antoine Fuqua’s “Olympus Has Fallen.” Itself owing much to such lone-man-of-action hallmarks as “Die Hard” and “Speed,” this welcome throwback to an earlier, more generously entertaining era of summer blockbusters delivers a wide array of close-quarters combat and large-scale destruction, all grounded in an immensely appealing star turn by Channing Tatum and ace support from imperiled POTUS Jamie Foxx. Though unlikely to rival career-best Emmerich grossers “Independence Day” and “2012” in the outer reaches of the box office stratosphere, pic should net a tidy profit for Sony, helping to salve the still-fresh wounds of “After Earth.”
The cat-and-mouse game in “White House” goes on and on (the movie runs for two hours and 17 minutes), growing more preposterous and silly by the scene. This totally is the stuff of action movies, not real life.
It’s kind of fun, in a dopey way, for a while, but then it’s just noise and firepower and boys with their toys.
As for the acting, Tatum proves a sturdy action hero, stripping down to a sleeveless undershirt in record time and projecting resolute concern. This guy is Aldo Ray all over again, only he’s going to have a longer and more successful career.
With "White House Down," he's taken his signature style and he's hitched to a fairly pedestrian "Die Hard" ripoff of a script. I try not to use the word "ripoff" often, but this movie borrows so liberally from so many different sources that it should have been a cast member in "The Bling Ring." There's a relationship between Channing Tatum and Joey King, who plays his daughter, that follows almost the same exact arc as the relationship between Jeff Goldblum and his daughter in "The Lost World," complete with the ridiculous payoff. James Woods is playing Ed Harris in "The Rock" here, and he does exactly what he was hired to do. It's just that there's no surprise to it. And the entire structure with a normal guy caught inside a harrowing situation, dealing with the team behind the incident and slowly realizing that they're not after what it initially seems like they're after, is so very by-the-numbers "Die Hard" that I'm surprised they didn't add a "based on" credit to the opening titles.
Surprising proof that Hollywood still can craft a memorable studio comedy, Roland Emmerich's White House Down stands as a singular achievement in parody, its auteur's intentions be damned. It's not just a pitch-perfect attack on every risible plot point afflicting today's all-exposition-and-explosion filmmaking, it's also a mad liberal's vision of an America beset by white wingnut terrorists, set in a sketch-comedy White House so broad that if you didn't know Jamie Foxx was starring as its president you might guess it to be Leslie Nielsen.
Perhaps afraid that watching a symbol of liberty repeatedly go boom isn’t enough, Emmerich and screenwriter James Vanderbilt add family drama, an attack on Congress, a plane crash and the possible nuking of the Middle East. What isn’t tonally jarring ends up shatteringly inept.
It’s also much too much, especially after the similar (and, in retrospect, better) “Olympus Has Fallen.” Here, complaining about 9/11-ish imagery is like saying “Earthquake” was insensitive to earthquake victims: In all the craziness, it’s hard to be offended.