In a time of international turmoil, divisive politics and increasing moral vacancy, two all-American truths remain: Channing Tatum is smokin' hot, and watching big explosions is fun. These are the principles that guide White House Down, in which Independence Day director Roland Emmerich again lays waste to our nation's capital. Now, instead of an alien invasion, he unleashes computer hackers, terrorists and other enemies of the state on a mission to capture President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) for ambiguous, ultimately superfluous reasons. Because who cares why they're doing it? All we need to know is that a crew of cookie-cutter bad guys are wreaking havoc on the White House and two sexy Americans are trying to stop them. It's a silver-screen fireworks show—senseless, extravagant and just in time for the Fourth.
Superfluous though it may be, there is a plot. D.C. cop John Cale (Channing Tatum) takes his angsty, video-blogging preteen daughter Emily (Joey King) on a tour of the White House after—for lack of a better word—bombing an interview to join the Secret Service. When Emily goes in search of a restroom, a bomb explodes nearby, and a squadron of bedraggled dudes with automatic weapons floods the marble hallways, busting every head and antique vase in their path. Cale narrowly escapes a spray of bullets and takes off looking for his daughter, but instead finds the president. Ample violence, awkward political references and obnoxious racial stereotyping ensue as the unlikely duo scramble through elevator shafts and underground tunnels, with Cale shouldering the dual responsibility of protecting the president and finding Emily.
What gives this trigger-happy flick some charisma, aside from feeding the red-blooded American fascination with attacks on Washington, is the equally patriotic appeal of an underdog prevailing against the odds. Cale's story—rising suddenly from a nobody policeman to the president's most trusted protector—is the quintessential up-by-your-own-bootstraps tale. Tatum's beautiful bod and fearless fatherly instincts don't hurt, either. All told, White House Down is enjoyable in the way that a large order of McDonald's fries is enjoyable: It's greasy and devoid of nutrients, but still inescapably, embarrassingly delicious.
Critic's Grade: B-
SEE IT: White House Down is rated PG-13. It opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Eastport, Clackamas, Living Room Theaters, Sandy, Lloyd Center, Lloyd Mall, Bridgeport, Tigard, Oak Grove, Mill Plain.