What it is is two hours of gloriously silly escapism. If I didn't know better I'd say director Roland Emmerich was sending up the Die Hard saga and its countless clones.
Yes, coming a few months after Olympus Has Fallen, that other Die Hard in the White House-style drama, it does look like a carbon copy, but the difference is that WHD is hugely fun and entertaining.
(For me, Gerard Butler’s movie was mean spirited and weakly scripted).
Okay, this newer epic isn't exactly Shakespeare, but it’s bursting with great one liners, such as the exchange between James Woods and a generic terrorist.
To paraphrase: “Want some cake?” Asks Woods, chomping dessert as well as scenery.
“No man. I'm diabetic.”
When's the last time in a Die Hard-style thriller you heard an exchange that gloriously flippant?
Then there’s Skip Tyler (Jimmi Simpson), assigned to hack into the White House defence system. He proves to be one of the most flamboyant antagonists, making the most of what could have been a one dimensional character.
Some supporting characters here could sustain their own short film at least, and Skip is one of them.
Channing Tatum, reminiscent of 80s-era John McClane, is fun and likeable as the similarly monikered John Cale.
Jamie Foxx lends charm and wit as the Obama in sneakers-style President James Sawyer, while solid support comes from heavyweights such as Woods (who looks like a shoo- in to play J Jonah Jameson in future Spider-Man instalments), Richard Jenkins and the ever engaging Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Okay, the special effects aren't great. One of the explosions would have looked dated in Emmerich’s 1996 classic Independence Day, which is referenced in the exposition-heavy first act.
However, all the obvious green screen work and CG crowd scenes don't get in the way of the fun.
Most of the movie looks like glorious cut scenes from a fun video game anyway.
Emmerich is a master of the action set piece, and here he's having a great time; a chase on the White House lawn has to be seen to be believed, while there's plenty of soap-style twists and turns to keep you hooked until the finale.
Remarkably I found the literally flag-waving finale moving, which is absurd considering the overall tone.
Then again, I had watched Rush a couple of hours before, so maybe that had softened me up for any sucker punch moments.
It remains to be seen whether WHD enjoys the same repeat factor as 2012 on TV, a gloriously guilty pleasure which never fails to engage me on Blu Ray.
However, on a wet Tuesday afternoon, it proved well worth the price of admission; an epic romp you laugh with instead of giggling at.
And I for one wouldn't mind seeing Tatum back for another round of terrorist-bashing adventure.
Or at least a prequel short with hacker Skip Tyler, in the style of Marvel’s One Shot films.
Alas, given the relatively poor box office returns, I get the feeling we have a long wait for any prequel or sequel.