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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

White House may not be down but the movie sure is

You may be going, as I am, to see "The Lone Ranger" this weekend. Or one of the other July 4th weekend openings. Then again, you may be behind in your movie viewing and are still trying to catch up. If so, you might be interested in the review of "White House Down" that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:

OK, I admit it. I’m a sucker for Channing Tatum. Even when he was still playing in cheesy dance/romance flicks such as “Step Up” and “Step Up 2,” I could see there was something more to him than just the sexily muscular post-adolescent.

For one thing, Tatum could actually dance. For another, he could at least pretend to be self-conscious about his modest acting abilities. That in itself should have been enough to endear him to anyone tired of Vin Diesel. But then he – to borrow a phrase – stepped up into another realm. Yeah, he played the requisite roles in such weepers as “Dear John” and “The Vow.” But he also attracted the attention of name filmmakers such as Steven Soderbergh, who first cast Tatum in the throw-away action flick “Haywire” – where he played an impressive third fiddle to the movie’s lead, Gina Carano – and then cast him in the lead of 2012’s most underrated film, “Magic Mike.”

Along the way, Tatum matched up favorably with some of the business’s best comic talents in such efforts as “The Dilemma” (with Vince Vaughn) and the “21 Jump Street” reboot (with Jonah Hill). And a handsome guy who can play comedy is movie gold.

Which is why his latest film, “White House Down,” is such a disappointment. Basically the same film as “Olympus Has Fallen,” which was released in March, “White House Down” features Tatum as John Cale, a Capitol police officer on protection detail for the Speaker of the House who wants to catch on with the Secret Service seemingly as much to impress his daughter as to protect the president. But his efforts to overcome his underachieving past aren’t enough, and his application is turned down by a former friend, now a head Secret Service agent (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Yet as tends to happen in Hollywood action flicks, the very day Cale is having his interview – accompanied by his daughter, no less – a group of terrorists in league with White House insiders engineers a takeover, killing dozens of guards, soldiers and Secret Service agents, and capturing a couple of dozen hostages. Including Cale and his daughter.

Naturally, Cale escapes. Naturally, he can run through hales and hales of bullets with mere scratches on his soon-unclothed arms. Naturally, he runs into the president and, singlehandedly, puts himself in position to do the job he was just turned down for. Can you say irony? How about Hollywood manipulation?

Oh, and the president is played by Jamie Foxx, the one-time stand-up comic who parlayed his talents into a Best Actor Oscar (for the movie “Ray”) – but whose comic abilities, along with Tatum’s, are shown only occasionally and even then are usually overwhelmed by CG-generated destruction (of the Capitol Building, of the White House, of Air Force One), by blizzard loads of bullets and by sequences that are more concerned about NOT offending anyone than in ever truly taking a political stance – Foxx’s liberal president handling a gun with atypical efficiency being only one of several examples.

Lost in all this is Tatum, whose natural sense of charm bears the same relationship to “White House Down” as your typical White House press chief does to revealing actual truth: not really very pertinent to the overall cause.