2013-06-28

White House Down – Die Hard in the White House

by Yo Snyder

Stop me if this sounds familiar: a group of terrorists who
really aren’t actual terrorists take over a building and lock down for their
own nefarious purposes, but unfortunately they overlook one man, one man who’s
in the wrong place at the wrong time, who has penchant for talking to himself
and making funny quips, a man who’s just an everyday guy named John who’s
trying to do his best to be a good father and family man, a guy who just
happens to be the one guy who can stop the bad guys all by his lonesome. Yeah,
that’s pretty much the outline for any Die Hard movie, which is basically what White House Down is. It’s like a Die
Hard reboot in disguise with Channing Tatum taking Bruce Willis’ role as John,
but the problem is he just doesn’t have the charm or the spunky charisma that
Bruce Willis did. Other than that, and the fact that this plot is a hodge-podge
of action movie tropes, with a large portion of them lifted in some form from
the Die Hard series, White House Down
is pretty much the perfect summer movie; it’s dumb, doesn’t make much sense,
doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is actually kind of fun…in a sort of
cheesy kind of way.

Of course, movies like this and the Die Hard series it so
liberally borrows from are all about the unlikely hero who’s in the wrong place
at the wrong time but, in truth, were really in the right place at the right
time to save the day. I don’t know if you’ve experience a day, or even a phase
of life, that was like that, but I certainly have. Never had to face down a
building full of terrorists in white tank top, but there have been times where
I wondered why exactly I was somewhere because it seemed like the worst place
for me to be. And then it would happen. Then would come that moment where it’s
suddenly clear that I was exactly the right person to be there at that moment
because I was exactly the person God needed to be there to make a difference.
There have been plenty of times where I’ve questioned God and his timing only
to discover just how perfect it really is. When it comes to God and those who
follow him, there’s really no such thing as being in the wrong place at the right
time, there’s only “you have come to your position for such a time as this.”
(Esther 4:14) God has you where you are for a reason, for a purpose. You may
not realize it now, but eventually you’ll see that even though it may have
seemed like a mistake, you were exactly the right person in the right place at
the right time.

Now, why they would decide to name the hero of this film
John, let alone John Kale, is beyond me. Worse, they put him in a tank top.
Maybe they were trying to pay homage to the movie that this and many others owe
a great debt to, the original Die Hard,
but another John saving the day with quippy one-liners, not enough ammo, hiding
in an elevator shaft all while wearing a white tank top…well, it just reminds
me how much this John Kale is no John McClaine, despite his best efforts to
fill those shoes. Honestly, had his name been almost anything else I probably
would have enjoyed myself more because my mind wouldn’t have been comparing
this John action hero with THE John action hero. Then again, Die Hard is, what, fifteen years old.
Maybe they were counting on there not being many people who would still make
that connections.

Then there’s Jamie Foxx as the president. In truth, he may
have served better as the John character. The character of the president isn’t
taken too seriously, Foxx doesn’t really play him all that seriously, and so we
don’t really take him seriously. I kept forgetting that he was supposed to be
the president and not Tatum’s buddy-cop sidekick. It’s not like Harrison Ford
in Air Force One (another film
liberally borrowed from), where you not only believed Ford as the president,
but as a tough president when he had
to be. Foxx’s president isn’t really meant to be that kind of character, which
good because he’s not portrayed that way, but having the president play the
role of comic relief sidekick didn’t really work too well for me. In a lot of
ways this is a pretty good movie that didn’t quite get the casting right. Some
different lead actors may have made the difference. However, James Woods and
Jason Clarke make for some entertaining bad guys. Cheesy, true, but in their
case, it’s good cheese.

And for the most part that’s exactly what can be said of White House Down. Yes it’s cheesy and
goofy, but it’s good cheesy and goofy. It’s fun in a silly way that only cheesy
action movies can pull off. The action is fun if derivative. The plot is
predictable but doesn’t ever take itself too seriously. It’s exactly the type
of escapist fluff that used to define summer blockbusters. Sure it’s basically
a derivative Die Hard rip-off (or would that be spin-off?), but that formula
works so well that it’s really hard to spoil it and not make it any fun. In a
year full of Die Hard movies (and only one of them actually being called Die Hard), White House Down shows why that franchise has endured and why it
remains so entertaining while adding a few fun elements of it’s own…that are
also derivative of action movies. Look, just don’t think about it too much,
wait for it to hit the dollar theater, get some popcorn, turn off your brain
and go have some fun.

Score: 4 of 7 – White House Down an action movie, so
there’s the usual explosions and people getting shot.  The violence is mostly bloodless, though.
Heck, Call of Duty is probably grittier than this movie. There’s also some
language and one very brief, mild scene of sensuality. In short, the usual fare
for an action movie that’s trying to keep a PG-13 rating.