Scale things down from the Capitol Building explosions, the venomous terrorist ploys, and the overarching subtext of international warfare, and you've got the real fun of White House Down: its character. Yet another melding of astronomical disaster and human charm from Independence Day director Roland Emmerich, the D.C.-set thriller actually veers the lot of its attention away from collapsing buildings (thankfully) and towards the nuanced moments between its affable stars: Secret Service hopeful Channing Tatum and freshly passionate commander in chief Jamie Foxx.
As an unlikely camaraderie forms between the two stars — who are forced to band together when Washington faces the wrath of American activists — we warm up to not a security guard and a president, but the men who occupy these positions: a lifelong underacheiver trying to get his act together to impress his intellectual middle school-aged daughter (who becomes one of the many hostages taken by the West Wing assailants) and a working class do-gooder who, while still enamored with his new place in the world, shows signs of cynicism about the political system and no shortage of conflict over the choices he's had to make... not to mention a nasty smoking habit he's trying to kick (gee, I wonder who he's supposed to be?).
Setting their differences aside in the interest of their country — Tatum's John Cale is a veteran and suggested conservative, while Foxx's President Sawyer ensnares the rage of his old white constituents for his peace-lovin' ways and lack of military background (seriously, who could he be?) — and of Cale's daughter Emily, the two develop a "buddy cop" formula that provides as many warm laughs as it does action thrills.
Thanks to the allure and comic chops of Foxx and, yes, Tatum, this motif seldom misses the mark. It's when the film aims in a different direction, shooting for sincere intensity over action-heavy candy, that some of the luster is lost. Never boring but sometimes hard to watch, thanks to the heavy artillery that is a terrorist ploy so vividly embedded in current events, the film loses its sense of "fun" in a plot that is at times too close to home. With the baddies led by Washington insiders — many of whom are not devoid of humanity but simply corroded by a flawed system and imperfect policies — White House Down sometimes seems to be a movie about our political situation, rather than a movie using our political situation to deliver a fun summer actioner. Unfortunately, the teetering of this line doesn't inject the film with depth as much as it does to confuse the viewer on what to feel.
Are we meant to ponder the gravity of White House Down's international climate? At times, it seems as though Emmerich is inviting us to do so... but then, a federal agent makes a crack about the president using a rocket launcher, or a plucky tour guide goes ape s**t on a terrorist for breaking a West Wing antique. We're back in the realm of the ridiculous, where we, and the movie, belong.
And when it keeps to this territory, White House Down is as much fun as you might want it to be. Oddly, when we think back on Independence Day, we don't cite the explosions and sweeping battles, but the laughable quips and exclamations — the "Welcome to Urf!"s and "Nobody's perfect"s. And that same human charm ebbs and flows throughout White House Down. When it veers from this path, honing in on an imperiled D.C. or a vindictive gang of vigilantes, we just wait for the fun again. But no more than a scene later, it's back, rocket launched right at us.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter | Follow hollywood.com on Twitter @hollywood_com
More:'White House Down' Would Be Nothing Without Its Music'White House Down' Clips'White House Down' Looks Really, Really Funny
From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)20 Grisliest TV Deaths of 2012-2013 (Vulture)
The blue carpet was sizzling at Tuesday night's New York premiere of White House Down – and not just because Channing Tatum was in the vicinity. Tatum and his costar Jamie Foxx decided to beat the heat, rolling up to the carpet in a limo that was riddled with (fake) bullet holes. As their sweet ride cruised by, a crowd of female fans (some in custom-made shirts) screamed upon sighting the stars through the window.
Although Tatum and Foxx work together onscreen to stop a paramilitary group from taking over the White House, there was a team of people behind the scenes of the film who didn't recieve the same adoration from fans. Screenwriter James Vanderbilt and composer Harald Kloser both played a part in bringing White House Down to the big screen. They served as producers on the film as well.
When writing the script, Vanderbilt was inspired by the summer blockbusters he watched growing up. "We just designed it to be fun," Vanderbilt said. "There's so much out there that's either superhero or post-apocalyptic. This is just a good old-fashioned buddy action movie, where you sit with a big tub of popcorn and have a great time."
Seeing Tatum and Foxx act opposite each other for the first time on set was an exciting experience. "They’re phenomenal together," Vanderbilt said. "You write a buddy movie and at the end of the day either the guys work together or they don't. The first day they were together we all breathed an enormous sigh of relief."
Tatum actually had a much more difficult costar to work with than Foxx. Kloser revealed that Tatum had a scene with a squirrel that was challenging to film. "The most difficult thing in this whole movie was a scene that Channing has with a squirrel, and that squirrel was really difficult to get to interact with Channing," Kloser said.
Kloser has previously worked with White House Down director Roland Emmerich on action-filled movies such as 2012 and 10,000 BC. "Roland hired me to write the music for The Day After Tomorrow, and in the process of working on that we became friends," Kloser said. "I told him some of my ideas that I had for new movies and I got lucky enough that we made a few of them together."
As a composer, Kloser truly understands the importance of music in films. "I'm one of the few people who gets to see movies without music. Normally, people don’t get to see that," Kloser said. "Whenever somebody comes to visit me in the studio and I take the music down and it's only the movie, they go 'Oh my God, I had no clue how important music is in movies.'"
As cast and crew alike escaped the humid air of the carpet and entered the Ziegfeld Theatre, they got ready to enjoy what was truly a group effort.
Follow Mary Oates on Twitter @mary_oates | Follow Hollywood.com on Twitter @hollywood_com
More:'White House Down' Clips'White House Down' Looks Really, Really Funny'White House Down' Looks Like '21 Jump Street'
From Our PartnersStars Pose Naked for 'Allure' (Celebuzz)20 Grisliest TV Deaths of 2012-2013 (Vulture)
Dateline: 10 000 B.C. The day of the last hunt has arrived. Oh dear. If an ancient prophecy holds true a remote mountain tribe’s quiet existence is hours away from coming to a bloody end. Not that it matters to a hunting party comprised of mud-splattered Abercrombie & Fitch himbos--nothing’s going to come between them and a hot plate of woolly mammoth meat. But no sooner is dinner over than “four-legged demons” attack. Actually they’re just slave traders on horseback but they quickly make off with plenty of women and children including Evolet (Camilla Belle). This “girl with the blue eyes” just so happens to possess the tribe’s “promise of life”--whatever that is. Enter D'Leh (Steven Strait). Our would-be He-Man loves Evolet so he organizes a rescue mission with the help of tribe elder Tic’Tic (Cliff Curtis). Their destination is a place unlike anything they have seen before (because they didn’t see Apocalypto): a city with pyramids built by slaves and ruled by a purported god the evil Almighty. First though our heroes must make it there alive--which is easier said than done when there are hungry (and poorly computer-generated) saber-toothed tigers on the prowl. Forget about Belle replacing Raquel Welch as the prehistoric playmate of your dreams. It’s my sad duty to report that are we denied the pleasure of seeing Belle strike some sexy poses in an animal-skin bikini straight out of One Million Years B.C. But it’s nice to know that even in the Mesolithic period our dreadlocked damsel in distress has access to the spa services needed for her to pass as the well-scrubbed face of a Vera Wang perfume campaign. Everyone else though needs a hosing down. Besides keeping herself clean and healthy Belle’s only other responsibility is to give the occasional hard stare that emphasizes Evolet’s piercing blue eyes which she does with aplomb. The Covenant’s Strait may have the beefcake physique of a warrior but he doesn’t possess any noble qualities. He’s more dolt than D’Leh natural born leader. Just listen to the sleepy Strait’s morale-boosting Independence Day-ish speech and you’re be inspired to fall on your own spear. Live Free or Die Hard’s Curtis can barely contain his embarrassment at having to fight at Strait’s side. 10 000 B.C. doesn’t boast a villain worthy of our hisses but Affiff Ben Nadra and Marco Khan at least project some menace as at-odds slave traders. “Only time can teach us what is truth and what is legend ” intones narrator Omar Sharif with all the pomposity of Seinfeld’s J. Peterman. Fine but 10 000 B.C. is hardly the stuff of legends. There are too many problems with this serious-minded but fantastical prehistoric romp to enjoy it on its own terms or as an unintentional exercise in pure camp. Forcing the cast to speak with grating generic European accents makes the inane dialogue harder on the ears. The plot borrows too liberally from Apocalypto. Even when Emmerich stops treading on Mel Gibson’s toes 10 000 B.C. also comes across as a de facto prequel to Stargate what with its antagonist being a pyramid-obsessed supreme being. You even brace yourself for the Almighty to reveal himself to be Jaye Davidson. All could be forgivable if Emmerich delivered on the action. He doesn’t. A woolly mammoth stampede proves to be inferior to similar scenes in Jurassic Park and King Kong. A phorusrhacid attack provokes laughter because it looks like our heroes are fleeing from a pissed-off Big Bird. The climatic revolt ends as soon as it begins. No one demands much from Emmerich. Just pure spectacle. So why does 10 000 B.C. feel no bigger than a natural history museum mini-diorama?