A critic friend caught White House Down a couple of days ago, and so I called this morning to see what he thought. “Roland Emmerich is as soulless and bombastic a director as Michael Bay,” he replied, “and this” — Emmerich’s latest — “is no better than Olympus Has Fallen.” Whoa, whoa…what? All the while I’ve been presuming that White House Down would be the slicker, pricier, more upmarket version of a White House-attacked-by-terrorists film, certainly compared to Antoine Fuqua‘s Olympus Has Fallen, a C-grade, Walmart-level piece of shit that opened last March and did about $160 million worldwide.
“But it looks so much better than Olympus Has Fallen,” I argued, not having a shred of first-hand observation to fortify my view. “It has to be at least half-decent or tolerable…right? Olympus was a drag. WHD at least looks and sounds like a tonier product. A slicker Sony Studios-type deal rather than…you know, a film that looks like it was shot in Shreveport.”
My friend harumphed and allowed that okay, yes, it might meet my standard of watchability if your standards are low enough “but that doesn’t make it good.” But good has always been relative, I countered, and epecially so these days. We’ve been beaten down by so many CG-driven tentpolers, so much comic-book and superhero crapola that when a big event movie comes along that feels at least somewhat acceptable and which isn’t grossly insulting and maybe has a few cool CG moments, it can seem almost good enough to warrant a thumbs-up or at least a thumbs-sideways.
In my 3.29 Olympus Has Fallen review I wrote that “there are two kinds of funny-bad. The first is when the actors convey to the audience that they know they’re in a turkey and that it’s cool for everyone to start hooting and making jokes. The second is when they seem to be conveying sincere belief in the material and are trying as best they can to sell it on a genuine level. Then it’s not that funny because you’re feeling tremendous sympathy, or more exactly pity.”
To judge by my friend’s reaction, White House Down isn’t “funny bad” or bad or a real problem of any kind, really. If, that is, you’ve adjusted your expectations going in. It’s apparently Emmerich back in his big-budget default wheelhouse and doing that knockout, high-throttle, blastaroonie thing that he’s done in all his various disaster films, except with…aahhh, what do I know? I’m seeing it on Wednesday.