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Article updated: 6/27/2013 2:51 PM

'White House' a downer action thriller

By Dann Gire

The only way that uber-action director Roland Emmerich could have salvaged his sophomoric disaster film "White House Down" would have been to push it into sheer camp and turn it into the full-fledged parody of "Olympus Has Fallen" that it wants to be.

A Columbia Pictures' preview screening of "White House Down" last week confirmed this when viewers frequently erupted into spasms of laughter as the cast members diligently played their characters straight, oblivious to the silliness surrounding them.

Take, for instance, the President of the United States (Jamie Foxx), wearing Michael Jordan athletic shoes, walking around with a potentially life-threatening wound, yet nobody seems overtly concerned about it. (Did everyone in the film vote for the other guy, or what?)

The bad guys give 007 villains a run for the title of "Worst Shots in Hollywood," firing off zillions of bullets and killing everyone except their intended targets, the heroes.

At a key moment, a man offers White House chief terrorist Emile Stenz (Jason Clarke) a slice of cake, and he shouts his reply, "I don't want cake! I'm a diabetic!"

It's a worthless piece of information. but thanks for sharing, Emile.

Then we watch a ludicrous limousine car chase across the White House lawn, joining unconcerned National Guard troops watching from a safe distance away.

This all adds up to a ridiculous action film written by James "The Amazing Spider-Man" Vanderbilt, probably after too many viewings of John McTiernan's original action classic "Die Hard."

In "White House Down," the seemingly ubiquitous Channing Tatum stars as John Cale, a police officer who dreams of becoming a Secret Service agent to impress his young daughter Emily (the impressive Joey King).

Cale picks up Emily from his estranged wife and takes her with him to tour the White House while he campaigns for a job from an old friend, Agent Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who apparently screens candidates for federal positions.

She turns him down, citing his checkered background of unreliability and poor performance.

At the same time, a group of seeming terrorists, led by the aforementioned Stenz, blow up the Capitol and invade the White House in an attempt to capture the president.

But the villains don't count on a mere tourist, as they assume John Cale to be, coming to the rescue and being quite adept at shooting guns and busting chops.

As the terrorists shoot up the White House, they take a group of hostages, among them little Emily Cale whom they apparently don't realize is the daughter of their unexpected opposition.

Meanwhile, Cale and the president take advantage of all the secrets of the White House (especially the tunnels John Kennedy used for those reported clandestine meetings with Marilyn Monroe).

It spoils nothing to reveal that James Woods' retiring White House chief of security, Walker, falls in cahoots with the baddies.

He unmasks his complicity early in the movie, hardly a surprise given that his character practically twirls an imaginary mustache as he goes about his last days on the job.

The job of computer genius behind the conspiracy -- and every White House takeover movie needs one -- goes to Skip Tyler (Jimmi Simpson), a tech nerd extraordinaire who likes listening to Beethoven while taking control of the nation's nuclear arsenal.

So, we have a cop with marital problems, wearing a smudged and sleeveless undershirt, fighting to save a loved one from apparent terrorists who've taken control of a massive building while Beethoven plays.

Outside of all that, any resemblance to the original "Die Hard" might be strictly coincidental, and considerably sillier.

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