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Movie review: 'White House Down'

“White House Down” borrows heavily from the Bruce Willis playbook and rolls out like “Die Hard in D.C.” from first frame to last.
BY GENE TRIPLETT etriplett@opubco.com Modified: June 27, 2013 at 6:06 pm •  Published: June 28, 2013

If he didn't already, director Roland Emmerich surely now holds the record for the number of times a single filmmaker has destroyed America's most famous residence — in a movie. He leveled it with an alien attack in “Independence Day” (1996), then flattened it again in “2012” (2009) when he ran the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy through it during a global natural disaster.

Now he's unleashing a gang of rogue ex-soldiers on the hapless abode at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in the nonstop nail-biter “White House Down,” which bears a strong resemblance, plot-wise, to director Antoine Fuqua's “Olympus Has Fallen,” another presidential home invasion thriller released earlier this year.

The biggest differences between Fuqua's R-rated actioner and Emmerich's shoot-'em-up are that the latter is less violent, doesn't take itself too seriously, even has its funny moments, and is rated PG-13.

And despite its two-hour-plus running time, it jets along like Air Force One in overdrive thanks to a streamlined script by James Vanderbilt (“Zodiac,” “The Amazing Spider-Man”).

Channing Tatum is capable and sympathetic as Capitol cop John Cale (no relation to the ex-Velvet Underground Cale), a decorated former soldier and divorced father who's struggling for a better relationship with his 11-year-old daughter (a feisty Joey King). Since she worships President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx in top form), Cale figures what better way to become a hero in his little girl's eyes than to become a protector of the Commander-in-Chief? But when he applies for a Secret Service job, he discovers his would-be boss is an old girlfriend (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who suspects he's still as immature as he used to be, and she turns him down.

A dejected Cale takes his daughter on a guided White House tour anyway, but that's rudely interrupted when the explosions begin and the White House is invaded by paramilitary thugs, led by a scary-mean Jason Clarke (the interrogation expert from “Zero Dark Thirty”).

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