WOOF realizes, dear readers, that some of you become upset with us when we review movies without actually going to see them, but seeing them in some cases strikes us as ill-advised, and in any case, as many of you are aware, we are always reluctant to leave the WOOF cave and dodge the drones. The difficulty in this case is mainly logistical (read: drones), because who wouldn’t want to see a film that CNN acclaimed as “satisfyingly stupid”? Reviewer Chris Nashawaty went on to write of Director Roland Emmerich that, “Seriously. It takes a certain kind of genius to crank out blockbusters as spectacularly silly as Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012.” And WOOF does not beg to differ. We are also aware that the “trades” are chalking off White House Down as a colossal flop, eaten alive by Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in Heat, a lovable assortment of computer-generated characters in Pixar’s Monsters University, and one other picture, but we forget which one. Anyway, it’s running in fourth place and that means the film’s chances of “earning out” (as we say in show biz) are practically nil. WOOF is indifferent to such crass details, however, and persists in reporting on art for art’s sake.
So what about White House Down earned it our specific interest? Well, because until President Obama gets his own Saturday morning cartoon show (do they still have those? Probably not, come to think of it) or is fully restyled as a revolutionary he-man by the Liberal Establishment Media, this is the closest look we have at how the Left’s perceptions of the president clash with reality; because, as you may already be aware, the movie features Jamie Foxx as Dear Leader, shooting shoulder-fired missiles and running about with a firm grip on a Colt .45 automatic. Don’t take our word for it, check out the publicity stills—and note the distinction between the presidential image confected by Director Emmerich and his band of liberal screenwriters and thespians, and the actual Barack, brandishing an ultra-expensive (and apparently recoilless) Italian shotgun in his notorious skeet-shooting photo. Isn’t this a discrepancy worthy of mention? Well, obviously we thought so. The president, after all, has killed a lot of people, but he does it with drones—and you can’t get out of a White House taken over by terrorists by deploying drones, because, quite literally, the ceiling is too low.
Now, lest anyone be concerned, the terrorists who take over the White House in the movie are not Arabs and not Islamic—they are, predictably, that rare breed of white, right-wing, German-led terrorist observed only in Hollywood movies—and always in Hollywood movies, unless Eastern Europeans get the gig. And although he has a Lincoln fetish, a Michelle-style wife and two daughters who drive home Foxx’s true identity (President Obama, obviously!) he is coyly referred to as President “James Sawyer” so that the Hollywood Left can claim plausible deniability—especially now that the picture seems to be tanking. Beyond this we are provided with a Rush Limbaugh stand-in who is revealed to be vile, disingenuous and racist, and what “Big Hollywood” reviewer Christian Toto calls “unrelenting liberal propaganda” from start to finish.
Apparently, understanding the plot requires nothing more than having already viewed Die Hard, so numerous are the similarities; and the film so exactly recreates an earlier 2013 release entitled Olympus Has Fallen, that only the Obama angle and the blockbuster budget distinguish it. But understanding White House Down as political mythmaking requires that we give you a blow by blow description of events, so you can identify the hero and the bad guy …No, not any of the terrorists, they’re just mercenaries—we mean the real bad guy.
First some background: President “Sawyer” has a wonderful plan, referred to throughout the film as his “peace plan.” He’s going to pull all American troops out of the Middle East. Here we see a true glimmer of the Obama mystique, at least as perceived in those heady days of yesteryear when Our Beloved Helmsman was “advanced” the Nobel Peace Prize on the expectation of pending performances, and widely perceived as a man who would withdraw America from battle wherever offered or encountered. In this simple-minded vision, America is the cause of destabilization and unrest everywhere on the planet, so it will require only our absence to ensure felicity and calm across the entire Arab world– and yet, as the film soon reveals, certain right-wing, tea party, military-industrial fanatics are opposed to the idea (you know, peace and all) and begin to plot in secrecy.
Meanwhile, our other hero, played by Channing Tatum has just flunked his audition for the Secret Service, but is taking his daughter Emily (played by Joey King) on the White House tour (which is apparently re-established despite dread sequestration cuts) when ka-boom! The politically-correct white right-wing terrorists attack!
The bomb actually goes off at the Capitol Building, but this places the White House on lockdown, giving the devious head of the President’s security detail (James Woods) a chance to get the president to a safe room and then gun down the other Secret Service agents because he, James Woods, is a traitor! (Just like that trusted security chief in Air Force One, remember? Imagine our shock and amazement.) The white, right-wing terrorists are led by a white, right-wing German named Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke), and he and his killer elite have little trouble knocking off the rest of the Secret Service and taking over the White House, at which point they begin utilizing the White House computer system to initiate nuclear strikes against a whole bunch of innocent countries where peaceful Arabs live.
So, Channing Tatum grabs a gun and starts killing the terrorists, fighting his way into the White House (where daughter Emily is trapped because she was using the bathroom when the lockdown occurred), and while he’s at it, he rescues President Obama—we mean Sawyer. But Sawyer/Obama is a game dude, and he excels at running, shooting, and firing rockets at the heavies as Tatum leads him toward rescue. Of course, while rescuing the president, Tatum loses his daughter again and she gets captured by the terrorists, so the president nobly gives himself up to the bad guys (how like him!) in exchange for Emily …sort of like in Die Hard except that was the hero’s wife, not his daughter, but one must allow for creative differences.
Okay, suffice it that Tatum finally gets his hands on the leader of the terrorists and blows him up—but during this spasm the president gets recaptured and is forced to activate the nuclear codes after which he is clearly shot point blank, but not to worry—the bullet is actually stopped by a pocket watch that was somehow handed down to him by Abraham Lincoln. Ahhh, take a moment to savor the poesy in this event, gentle readers! Meanwhile, Channing Tatum crashes through the wall in a presidential security vehicle and kills Stenz with a mini-gun.
Anyhow, guess who turns out to be the criminal master mind behind everything? Why, the Speaker of the House—the leader of the “opposition party”…the knuckle-dragging Neanderthalic Republican– or, in other words, John Boehner as portrayed by actor Richard Jenkins. Except they don’t call him John Boehner, that would be too obvious. He is hell bent on stopping the peace process by seizing power, and since Sawyer was thought dead and the Vice President was blown out of the sky, (we skipped that part), Boehner, whom the film calls Eli Raphelson, is now the apparent president. His aim is to send troops swarming back into the Middle East, which is a bit odd considering that he is simultaneously conspiring to nuke most of it, but you know those haters! However, this vile little RINO reckoned without Channing Tatum being on the scene, and didn’t figure on President Sawyer being equipped with Honest Abe’s magic, bullet-stopping watch! Obama (that is, Sawyer) directs that Boehner (we mean Raphelson) be taken into custody for attempting a coup d’état…and blowing up a lot of the White House and the Capitol…and shooting down the Vice President…and stuff.
The events described above, by the way, originated, if that word is even vaguely apposite, in a film shot from a script by Producer James Vanderbilt, who sold his scenario to Sony for 3 million dollars—so don’t give up out there, struggling script writers!
So why is WOOF bothering with this film, filled with calisthenics for your eyeballs and clichés mined from more than a dozen films featuring white terrorists attacking the president or some other American institution, plus about eight seasons of 24? Because the Liberal parallax view absorbs us and awes us in its insularity from anything real.
Who could reasonably, at this point, link the Obama image to peace in the Middle East? Who could possibly conceive a president who can’t throw a baseball or shoulder a 12-gauge demonstrating adroitness with a semi-automatic handgun, or any of the other ordinance he appears to manipulate in Emmerich’s film? How is withdrawing American troops from the field, somehow Lincolnesque? How does the Lincoln comparison ever really function in the Obama ethos? Why would Russia, China and Iran all agree to President Sawyer’s “Peace Plan” after learning of his macho performance in confronting the terrorists—but not have greeted it with cynical encomia initially? Why does Israel finally approve of it also? Why does France need to approve of it at all? And does anybody truly conceptualize John Boehner as the living simulacrum of Ernst Stavro Blofeld? …Really? …C’mon, really?
In Hollywood there is a long-lived incongruence between the endless flower-childhood of its denizens and the extraordinary visions of violence and mayhem they create repeatedly for the screen—so how do filmmakers make Barack Obama appear heroic? By having him grab a pistol and do things the real Obama would attribute to “bitter clingers,” and yet, by the very issuance of such imagineered flapdoodle, lending the whole notion a sense of wide-screen verisimilitude. That this is how they make Obama seem heroic to themselves is further evidence of the maladaptive nature of the Hollywood psyche…ever split between didactic pacifism and Homeric teleologies. But to make this film succeed on a grand scale would have required a grandeur attributable only to the blank-slate Obama of 2007-8—the unsullied template—the man about whom we could believe anything we wished, because he was cool, and he stood for hope and change—possibly the two most deliberately ambiguous concepts in the history of American politics. Yes, we might have bought it in those days before the baseballs, the skeet shoot, the tantrums, the corpse-man gaffe, the pouting, and that peculiarly Obamian style of governance that everywhere creates division, decline, and ruination but invariably denies responsibility for any of it.
Today, the movie appears to be bombing (forgive us), and this fact mystifies the critics who flattered it and the producers who assumed it would earn epic returns. Maybe this is because the fates were cruel to Sony Pictures, or maybe this is because the image of Barack the gunslinger is simply untenable out there in movie-going America. Anxious to regain some ground, Sony is throwing open the doors of theaters showing their flop to anyone with a military ID on the Fourth of July. In England, The Guardian suggests that, “If White House Down has upset any members of the US military, Sony’s decision to offer veterans and current armed forces servicemen free entry to see the film on…U.S. Independence day might help to turn the tide.” But what tide is that? Even the Guardian must realize that giving seats away for free will not increase earnings, and you can bet your boots Sony does. No, Sony is just burning off a bit of bad karma—but at this point, everyone’s gone–gone to go watch Monsters University. We hear it’s boffo… and considerably less implausible!