Valdosta Daily Times


July 1, 2013

‘White House Down’ full of action, light on everything else

VALDOSTA — “White House Down” (Action: 2 hours, 11 minutes)

Starring:  Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal James Woods and Richard Jenkins

Director: Roland Emmerich

Rated: PG-13 (Prolonged sequences of violence, brief sexual image and profanity)

Movie Review: Producer Roland Emmerich is the director who helped give audiences films like “Independence Day” (1996) and “2012” (2009). He has directed 17 full-length films. One thing moviegoers can note is his films never bore them. However, his films’ audiences can attest to the reality his films suffer with respect to screenplay writing. Under Emmerich’s direction, the films usually have a grand plot such as the ultimate, mass destruction of life, planetary or for a city or other community. His movies thrive on disaster and action. “White House Down” follows that formula.      

Cale (Tatum) is a Capitol police officer who is in the White House when several men take over the presidential home. Cale is tasked with saving President Sawyer (Foxx, spoofing Obama occasionally) and his daughter, Emily, who was on a tour with Sawyer when militant mercenaries raided the White House.

Explosions, car chases and multiple useless amounts of violence are all in place to create this clichéd and formulaic piece. The story relies on action scenes and the comedic camaraderie of Tatum and Foxx.

Think of this film as a comedic version of “Olympus Has Fallen” (2013). Like “Olympus,” “White House Down” is filled with plenty of energetic scenes. Violent scenes happen often. They thrill, even when not compelling. They are enjoyable, brainless material.

Both men are good at comedies. They fail at being genuine action heroes. Even during moments of peril, one is compelled to laugh at them. This screenplay wanted that. It is as much a comedy at moments as it is an action thriller. The problem is that it also has some very dramatic moments. Some involves a kid. The action and comedic bits overshadow the drama; thus, the characters become trivialized. When they do face a dangerous predicament, a sense of caring for them is unneeded.

When an antagonist puts guns to a child’s head, a viewer should sense something. Nothing emotional transpires here.

This is just one of the messy parts, but “Down” has more.

The story is messy. It is choppily edited. The producers should have researched how government works also. Several technical mishaps exist for those who study U.S. history and government.

Even more, the ending consists of over-played themes of corrupt officials. The notion is a contrived effort. This is a shame considering “Down” provides plenty of thoughtful moments about government and corporate collaborations, the power of the military-industrialist, and the noble character of those who defend their country.

As previously noted, the film scores points with action-packed scenes, but comedic repertoire of Tatum and Foxx is amusing. This is the case as all else around them pales in comparison.

Grade: C (While it entertains, its messy story garners it a thumbs down.)


“The Heat” (Comedy: 1 hour, 57 minutes)

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy and Michael Rapaport

Director: Paul Feig

Rated: R (Pervasive language, strong crude content, drug usage, sexuality and violence)

Movie Review: Uptight FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) receives orders to investigate a ruthless drug lord in Boston. She is partnered with crude, angry Boston cop Shannon Mullins (McCarthy). Both women are loners and prefer to solve cases independently. The two clash constantly, trading insults and making plenty of mistakes along the way. When they find friendlier relations with each other, they find their jobs become easier, but their case has greater repercussions.  

As police partner films go, this one is asinine material that inspires laughter. It is over the top to the point it works. If one is going to do a clichéd story with repetitive jokes, this is the way to do it. In other words, if you make a terrible movie, go all the way. This is easy when doing comedies. Producers only have to create humorous material that works for situations within the plot.

In this sense, this comedy takes terrible elements seen in other law-enforcement films, and it expounds to make it truly farcical. A prime example of this is McCarthy. She is a rotund woman. She uses this to her advantage to make people laugh. If she were skinny and crawling through car windows, the moment might not appeal in a humorous manner. Observing McCarthy crawling through tight spaces is awkward because she must wiggle her body into positions not commonly seen.

McCarthy is the highlight of this film, although at moments she appears to be doing a standup routine. She more than ably steals moments from Bullock, who, in a sense, easily reminds people of her role from “Miss Congeniality” (2000). The two women are a great duo. They work well together in a manner that works as an onscreen pairing. Think of these ladies as the new Laurel and Hardy of moviedom.

The material is asinine in parts, but it is never boring. Bullock and McCarthy keep the laughs flowing, even through shabby moments.  

Grade: B- (In this case, the heat is good.)

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