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20130624cnsbr0820 webChanning Tatum and Jamie Foxx star in a scene from the movie "White House Down." (CNS photo/Columbia)NEW YORK (CNS) – In the hands of director Roland Emmerich, our nation's capital doesn't stand a chance.

Having laid waste to Washington by way of an alien invasion in "Independence Day" and via the Mayan apocalypse in "2012," he returns to form in "White House Down" (Columbia). This time, domestic terrorism is to blame for the swath of destruction along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Third time's a charm, however, as Emmerich has crafted a fast-paced thriller with heart – but also with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Based on a clever screenplay by James Vanderbilt ("The Amazing Spider-Man"), "White House Down" never takes itself too seriously, injecting humor into a survival drama that crosses "Die Hard" with "Air Force One."

John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a member of the security detail protecting Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins). His goal is to join the Secret Service and serve the president, James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx).

John's motivation is personal; he wants to impress his young daughter, Emily (Joey King), who is obsessed with politics and runs her own blog.

John arranges an interview with agent Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) at the White House. He brings Emily along, and the child is agog with excitement. Unbeknownst to her, though, Dad does not get the job.

John and Emily decide to take the White House tour (this is pre-sequestration, of course). Prophetically, their guide points out a painting of the burning of the White House by British troops during the War of 1812.

Meanwhile, evil forces are at work inside the Capitol and at the White House, where a team of terrorists have gained entree disguised as workers installing a home theater for the first family.

Before you can say "House of Representatives," the Capitol dome blows up and mercenaries are swarming all over the executive mansion. Martin Walker (James Woods), head of White House security, grabs the president and they head down to the underground bunker.

Of course, tourists make easy hostages. John springs into action and escapes, but becomes separated from Emily. Still, the ingenious girl manages to do her bit: She uses her cell phone to upload video of the attack to the Internet, blowing the terrorists' cover.

Without spoiling the plot and its many twists, suffice it to say that, predictably, John winds up being the president's only friend and protector.

Amid the mayhem, "White House Down" gets a little preachy, slipping in talk about peace in the Middle East, the impact of war on combatants, and the political power wielded by military contractors and arms manufacturers. But these issues, important as they are, take a back seat to unabashed patriotism and the portrayal of heroic sacrifice for neighbor, family, and country.

The film contains much intense but mostly bloodless violence, a fleeting sexual image, and occasional crude and profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.