This may look exactly like Gerard Butler's over-serious Olympus Has Fallen, but it's actually that film's smarter, sillier younger brother: the one you like even though you really shouldn't. As he did with 2012, filmmaker Emmerich has injected this huge action romp with a generous dose of tongue-in-cheek humour while never sacrificing the overwrought spectacle. So even if it's wildly contrived and ludicrously patriotic, it's so gleefully destructive that we can't help but have a lot of fun.
It starts out as ex-military man John (Tatum) tries to impress his estranged 11-year-old daughter Emily (King) by taking her along with him on a job interview at the White House. At that moment, home-grown terrorists strike, led by a disgruntled security chief (Woods). In the chaos, John gets separated from Emily, and as he looks for her he stumbles across the US President (Foxx). As John and the President work to subvert the villains, the politically savvy Emily is posting videos of them on YouTube, which helps the Pentagon command centre, overseen by security chief Carol (Gyllenhaal) and Speaker Raphelson (Jenkins), keep the nation from falling apart. But it turns out that one of the baddies (Clarke) has a personal vendetta against John.
As always, Emmerich infuses the film with a sombre tone then undermines it at every step with witty irony. Each scene is packed with quirky characters, snappy one-liners, knowingly corny sentimentality and bigger-than-necessary mayhem. For example, he manages to wedge a full-on car chase into the White House grounds, complete with a rocket launcher. At the centre, Tatum and Foxx are a lively double-act, bouncing off each other with feisty energy. Furrowed-brow gravitas is supplied by Gyllenhaal, Jenkins and Woods, while scene-stealers include King's plucky young hero and Simpson's megalomaniac hacker.
In other words, there's more fun crammed into this 131 minutes than you'd ever think possible. As long as you watch it as a guilty pleasure. If you fall for the movie's rah-rah Americana, it will feel like a rather insanely overblown mess, especially since the terrorists are such an eclectic gang with divergent demands for money, power and even levelling the Middle East forever. Yes, there's a point underneath Emmerich's excessive insanity. But basically, the film is just a lot more enjoyable than it has any right to be.