At the Movies

Channing Tatum must save the President from invaders of the Executive Mansion in “White House Down.” Enlarge photo

Reiner Bajo/Sony Columbia Pictures/Associated Press

Channing Tatum must save the President from invaders of the Executive Mansion in “White House Down.”

New in Theaters

The Kings of Summer. (Playing at the Gaslight Cinema)

Three teenagers spend a summer in the woods where they build a house and live off the land. Rated R.

White House Down. (Playing at the Durango Stadium 9)

Staggeringly implausible, cartoonishly comical, Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down” is refreshingly dumb.

Refreshing because carefree action absurdity, once the province of the summer cinema, is on the outs. Solemnity – even for caped, flying men in tight-fitting trousers – is in.

But there’s an inarguable, senseless pleasure in watching Jamie Foxx, as the president of the United States, kicking a terrorist and shouting: “Get your hands off my Jordans!” Hail to the chief, indeed.

“White House Down” follows Antoine Fuqua’s “Olympus Has Fallen,” released in March, as the second movie this year to imagine an assault on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The two films are very similarly plotted, but “White House Down” is notably less serious, more content to loosen the strings and acknowledge its own inherent preposterousness.

This becomes particularly crystalized somewhere around the time Foxx’s President James Sawyer and his rescuer, Channing Tatum’s wannabe secret service agent, are careening across the White House lawn in the president’s limo while terrorists shoot in pursuit. Onlookers behind a fence – media, regular people, the Army – merely gape in awe, as if frozen by the idiocy.

“White House Down” is most entertaining when it’s a simple, ludicrous buddy movie, with Tatum and Foxx fleeing across the White House grounds, dropping one-liners as they go, eluding a gang of assailants led by a bitter turncoat (James Woods) and his ferocious henchmen (including Jason Clarke, swapping sides in the war on terror following “Zero Dark Thirty”).

This is a kind of coronation for Tatum as a movie star. He’s now reached the level that he can breeze through a blatantly silly movie and look none the worse for it. He’s John Cale (not to be confused with the Velvet Underground musician, although, how could you?), a Silver Star veteran of Afghanistan and a police bodyguard to the speaker of the house (Richard Jenkins).

For his Secret Service interview at the White House, he’s brought along his politics-obsessed 11-year-old daughter (the promising Joey King). But it goes poorly, partly because his would-be boss turns out to be an old flame (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who doubts he’s grown up. There’s some reason to believe her, since Cale (in the mold of most action heroes) is an absentee, divorced dad.

It’s an archetype defined by Bruce Willis in “Die Hard,” a movie “White House Down” apes right down to the wife-beater tank top. When the Capitol dome is detonated and the White House invaded, Cale is separated from his daughter and stumbles into the kidnapping of the president. From there, it’s a series of chases through the handsome, recreated halls of the White House, where golden light filters in through venetian blinds but seemingly scant security measures exist.

Emmerich, the director of spectacles like “Independence Day” (a movie he references in “White House Down”) and “2012,” has made blowing up the White House something of a fetish, having already done it in both of those movies. It’s a style of blockbuster that now feels dated, like a ‘90s kind of big-budget moviemaking that depends on explosions, flashes of comedy and star charisma.

The charm of Tatum – toned but goofy – carries the film. Foxx, a more gifted comic actor, is left off-screen for large chunks. His president is a kind of liberal fantasy version of Barrack Obama, boldly removing all troops from the Middle East, thereby sparking the fury of the Beltway’s white power players.

If “White House Down” had pushed the farce further, Emmerich’s overlong romp could have been something special. But the comedy in James Vanderbilt’s screenplay only comes in spurts.

Many of its biggest laughs don’t come when they’re cued up, but at the film’s attempts at emotion. Woods, for example, gravely announces: “Killing Ted Hope was the second hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life.” If stripped of its production value, “White House Down” would make one hysterical off-Broadway one-act.

“White House Down,” a Columbia Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image. Running time: 137 minutes. HH out of four.

JAKE COYLE, AP Entertainment Writer

The Heat. (Playing at the Durango Stadium 9)

“Beverly Hills Cop.” “Lethal Weapon.” “48 Hours.” “Tango & Cash.” The buddy cop movie is a reliable mainstay of our popular culture. And the cops are pretty much always guys.

So the fact that BOTH the cops in “The Heat” are women would be reason enough to welcome it to the genre. Beyond that, though, the movie is undeniably entertaining – if quite uneven, and sometimes truly over-the-top. The good stuff comes from the obvious chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. The actresses sure look like they’re having a blast. And if they’re faking it, well, they’re doing an even more impressive job than we thought.

Of course, there’s a formulaic element to “The Heat,” which is directed by Paul Feig of “Bridesmaids” fame – buddy cop movies ARE based on a formula, and this film is content to stay within it.

The cops are always terrifically mismatched, usually one straight-laced, the other wild and unpredictable. They’re brought together to solve a case that no one else can. They hate each other at first, but gradually, dontcha know, they learn to ... OK, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Bullock is Sarah Ashburn, an FBI agent so compulsively dedicated to her job that she has no outside life – unless you count a cat which isn’t even hers. She has an uncanny knack for finding the drugs and guns others have missed. But then she arrogantly lords it over her less gifted colleagues – even those poor, untalented drug-sniffing dogs.

Then there’s Shannon Mullins (McCarthy), who’s way more anti-social than Ashburn. In fact, she’s a holy terror – a crude, profane, angry creature who has no problem reducing her boss to an emasculated, quivering mass. When we first meet her, we wonder if she’s just gonna be too much to take for two hours. But once McCarthy hits her stride in an awesome bit of boss-shaming back at the precinct, she’s off and running.

The two women are trying to take down a vicious drug lord in Boston, and that’s all you need to know about the generic plot. The supporting cast is good but kept far from the spotlight. It would have been nice to see more of Jane Curtin, especially; the mere thought of her playing a foul-mouthed mother to McCarthy is enough to make you laugh.

And laugh you will, even if you’re surprised at yourself sometimes. The funniest moments are when McCarthy’s Mullins assesses her uptight partner as if she were some strange and rare animal she encountered at the zoo. Watch her react to the incomprehensible sight of Ashburn in Spanx, something she’s never seen. (Does Bullock really need Spanx, though? We digress.)

At another point, Mullins visits Ashburn at home, where the FBI agent is dressed in perfectly pressed pajamas. Mullins thinks she’s wearing a tux. Alas, we can’t quote this or really any dialogue by screenwriter Katie Dippold – the expletives flow fast and furiously.

Then there’s the dive-bar scene, where the women bond over drinking and yes, dancing. As throughout the film, both actresses are uninhibited physical comediennes here. And they do seem to be improvising much of the time.

Some moments go too far, and last too long. A diner scene where Ashburn tries to save a choking patron is agonizing, but even with mouth agape, you’ll probably still laugh, and kudos to the actor playing the paramedic: Talk about making the most of a few lines.

Many buddy cop films are corny by the end. There are syrupy scenes here too, but as elsewhere in this uneven movie, the actresses are committed enough to make it work.

And Jerry Lewis, are you listening? Despite what you say, female comedy is funny. Especially with McCarthy on the screen.

“The Heat,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated R for pervasive language, strong crude content and some violence. Running time: 117 minutes. HH½ out of four.


Still Showing

Durango Stadium 9

(Next to Durango Mall, 247-9799,

Monsters University. A prequel to the 2001 blockbuster in which the monsters attend college. Rated G.

World War Z. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.) It’s safe to call this the first installment in a new franchise that has Brad Pitt battling for his life against a planet full of zombies. Rated PG-13.

Man of Steel. (In standard format and digital 3-D with surcharge.) The latest re-telling of the Superman story didn’t wow critics, but the fans can’t stay away. Rated PG-13.

This is the End. Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride play themselves in a comedy about the world ending and how the rich and famous might handle it. Rated R.

Now You See Me. A group of super magicians keep pulling off bank heists while they’re on stage, much to the chagrin of a confused FBI. Rated PG-13.

Fast and Furious 6. More high-adrenaline street racing. One would think audiences should know what to expect by now. Rated PG-13.

Back Space Theatre

(1120 Main Ave., 259-7940,

Upside Down. Having not seen the film, I borrow a snippet from film critic Peter Sobczynski: “Simply put, this is one of the craziest films to come along in a while and I can confidently say that anyone who sees it will either hail it is some kind of crackpot masterpiece or dismiss it as one of the silliest damn things they’ve ever seen. Either way, those planning on seeing it should make sure that the multiplex floor is clean because their jaws, if not their entire bodies, are likely to resting down there for much of the running time.” Rated PG-13.

The Great Gatsby (8:30 p.m. Saturday only). The 1974 retelling of Fitzgerald’s novel may not have Leo and Jay-Z, but I’ll take Redford and Irving Berlin. Stop by the Rochester earlier in the evening to get in the mood. Rated PG.

Gaslight Cinema

(102 Fifth St. Next to the railroad depot, 247-8133,

The Quartet. At a home for retired musicians, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva and the former wife of one of the residents. Rated PG-13.

Ted Holteen and The Associated Press

Sandra Bullock is FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn and Melissa McCarthy is  Boston Detective Shannon Mullins in the buddy-cop-comedy “The Heat.” Enlarge photo

Gemma La Mana/20th Century Fox/Associated Press

Sandra Bullock is FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn and Melissa McCarthy is Boston Detective Shannon Mullins in the buddy-cop-comedy “The Heat.”