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June 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Roland Emmerich’s movies are the kind that are usually described as “critic proof,” the kind that pull in big audiences looking for action, explosions and more action to go along with their popcorn, rather than a canny and crafted plot. White House Down is no exception. It’s presented as a kind of action comedy, but Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal asks, “What does it matter if the absurdity is slovenly, the whimsy leaden, the extravagance squalid? Moviegoers’ sensibilities, or so [Emmerich] seems to have concluded, are already deadened by a dying genre; stage this dopey stuff as a comedy of chaos and the audience will buy it. If there’s one thing more dismaying than his approach, it’s the possibility that he’s right.” Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post says that Emmerich’s film “never quite seems to decide what kind of movie it wants to be, although by firepower alone it qualifies as this summer’s most cartoonishly bombastic exercise in sensory overload (so far).” On the other hand, Peter Keough in the Boston Globe writes: “Each nutty scenario is surpassed by the next, ludicrous story lines coalesce with expert orchestration, and absurd details return with perfect timing to build to a crescendo of hilarity. By the time the flag waves on the White House lawn, the audience with whom I watched this had lost it — Emmerich had knocked them dead.” Manohla Dargis in the New York Times also compliments Emmerich for making “the opening siege unsettling enough to grab your attention and then, once he has it, begins folding in lighter moments — one-liners, cartoonish bits of business, laughably impossible situations and stunts — that ensure that at least this American collapse doesn’t end up feeling too heavy.” Indeed, the entire plot about the takeover of the White House “is wildly implausible and completely silly if you stop to think about it,” writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angles Times, “But the action in White House Down is so continuous … that it rarely leaves you the leisure for mature reflection.” There’s another reaction to the movie that comes from the conservative blog. Christian Toto comments that Emmerich engages in “dumping ideological sludge” on the screen, slamming “conservatives, the ‘military industrial complex,’ defense contractors and any politician who thinks it might not be wise to withdraw all troops from the Middle East.” But even Toto acknowledges, “Ignore the far-left talking points and you’ve got a good hour of guilty-pleasure cinema.”