Remembering Blank Check and it's Weird Messages

Do the messages of Blank Check still stand up?
February 22, 2017
Who doesn’t want a water slide from their office into their personal swimming pool? Or a bounce house where you can propel yourself forward into a go kart race track? Top it all off with a sweet 80’s virtual gaming system.

You want all of these things. I want all of these these things! Who wouldn’t? It’s a Barbie’s Dream of nostalgia.

Now what was that movie with this young couple running through timed fountains? Let me just quickly search for this on YouTube. Let’s see… Okay, I found a child on a date with a… grown adult woman running through fountains and, oh… OH… oh… It’s Blank Check.

The room caved in on me, surrounding me in nothing but darkness.

This is between… A child… And a woman?! Okay, there must be some kind of wacky 90’s joke here I’m misremembering, so let’s just hop onto Hulu real quick and watch the movie.

Immediately the premise of Blank Check is insane - Preston Waters (Brian Bonsall) is a 12-year-old boy who cares more about money than Scrooge McDuck. He is writing himself a life goal list which includes: Making money and... killing his two brothers. Wow, okay, this film got dark fast. The only thing he wants for his birthday is his own room - But according to Preston’s Dad, the spare room is being used for his brother’s budding business, whatever that is. Sounds like porn to me.

Preston takes it upon himself to go open a bank account where undercover agent Shay Stanley (Karen Duffy) denies his request to open an account. But don’t worry… Preston falls in love with her, but she doesn’t reciprocate these feelings… Or does she?

Fast forward to when Preston is run over by criminal Carl Quigley (Miguel Ferrer), who is hiding a million dollars cash with a shady banker, and threatens to beat the living daylights out of Preston. A crowd of parents appear and are like “Yo, you can’t punch strange children” and Quigley is like “Okay, fine, I’ll write you a check for the bike.” Before he can finish writing the check, he sees some cop cars, throws the Blank Check at Preston, pees himself a little, and then leaves.

Preston takes the check home. This is when it is revealed to us that Preston is some kind of crazy computer hacker (In 1994) and also a master at forging confidential documents. He prints himself a check for a million dollars - Cash - Which he takes back to the bank. The teller laughs in his face and then throws Preston in front of her boss Edward Biderman (Michael Lerner) to be “taught a lesson”. Biderman shoos the teller away and asks if Preston wants some “Juice”, which apparently is Quigley’s actual henchman who is being sent to retrieve his money. Biderman quickly confuses this child with this man, and fills Preston’s back pack with millions of dollars in cash before Preston runs away victoriously, passing the real Juice (Tone Loc) on the way. It takes about 2 minutes after Juice shows up that Quigley realizes his mistake and proceeds to completely lose his mind for the rest of the film.

If you thought any of that was weird, this is where the movie really starts to go off the rails. Preston goes back home, passing a castle-like mansion on the way home for sale, and puts his child hacking skills to good use. He uses a generic robot voice to call the realtor and manages to outbid Quigley himself - Because of course it’s Quigley. Apparently Quigley had the same game plan as a 12 year old. During this sequence, Preston’s Mom pokes her head into Preston’s room and says in a calm voice “I’m going out to run some errands, I’ll be back at 3” to which the realtor is like “$3 million? Okay!” Preston turns to his Mom and screams “MOM YOU’RE KILLING MY DEAL HERE!!” For some reason, no one hears him say that part. Also, Preston’s Mom just brushes that comment aside as “Oh, it’s crazy Preston!” No, your kid is committing highly illegal activities in his bedroom, but whatever - It’s crazy Preston!

Preston wins the highest bid on the house, the realtor does zero background checks on this robot voice who Preston’s named “Macintosh” after the Mac he’s hacking in with, and it’s paid entirely for in cash. He moves into this castle by himself and tells his Dad that he’s working for Macintosh. At no point during this film does his father or anyone ask why a 12-year-old is in a high level management position for some dude they’ve never met, glazing over all Child Labor Laws.

Preston hires a limo driver Henry (Rick Ducommun), who is essentially Jack Black, to drive him around and be his best friend. Henry is just about the only character in this entire film to question anything that’s happening at all, and Preston starts telling him a series of lies. The two of them have a bunch of adventures together, spending millions of dollars on things like… a personal bounce house, a go kart track, a slide for a swimming pool, and a VR headset before they existed outside of a Viewmaster. This is the part of the movie I was jealous of as a kid because who wouldn’t want to live in that house? Well, sadly, nobody is ever there to visit because Preston continues to have no friends.
The secondary plot here involves Shay, the FBI agent undercover as a Banker, trying to meet Macintosh himself, and instead winds up on a series of weird dates with Preston, who is representing Macintosh. They go to a fancy restaurant until Preston ruins it by wiping out the table because he’s literally a child. Then they go and have a romantic run through timed fountains in the park - Which for the record, I remember as two adults doing this, but I was so wrong. All of this is setup to be a cute, fun 90s joke where a child thinks he is dating a woman, except they go on actual dates and Shay is acting like she is falling in love with Preston, so it’s just weird.

Eventually we hit this point where Preston wants to throw himself and “Macintosh” a joint birthday party. A greedy event planner takes 10k cash out of Preston’s back-pack as a deposit (Seriously, get this kid a safe) and she says she will “collect the rest the day of the event.” I’ve worked in event management for almost a decade and that’s not how any kind of payment system works, so that’s already wrong. Before the party rolls around, Quigley and his team of henchman track down Preston and chase him through a public park - Where all the bystander just kind of… Stares at them. There are a bunch of men chasing a child in the park, be a little more alarmed please! Preston drops his backpack with the rest of the cash, and is left with pretty much nothing. Preston gets away, so Quigley kidnaps Preston’s bully and threatens to throw him off the roof to get Preston’s name.

So it’s party time. Preston is out of money and everyone wants to meet Macintosh. The party planner wants to be paid thousands of dollars during the party, which is her own fault for being a terrible planner. Despite there being thousands of people at this event (Where did they come from and how did they get invited) Preston realizes that nobody there is his real friend, and goes up to the big Macintosh desk to stare at his limited funds. This may be the only part of the movie that I think teaches a valuable lesson: Preston sadly looks over what he spent a million dollars on so quickly, a mistake that is so reminiscent of our first jobs out of high school and college, and how buying all this fancy stuff leads you to not be able to put food on the table for yourself.

Preston’s Dad wanders in to talk with Macintosh, who is obviously Preston hiding in a chair, and asks Macintosh to let Preston come home early for his birthday. This is another touching moment in the film where Preston realizes that his Dad cares about him more than literally any of these other weird people at the party. Preston tries to catch up to his father, but is instead accosted by psycho party planner lady. When Preston can’t pay up, she literally just cancels the party and kicks everyone out (This would never happen in the event planning world, but we’re just going to leave that one).

Alone in the house, there is a knock at the door and it turns out to be: Quigley and his goons! It was very polite of him to knock first. The interesting part here is that you think Preston is going to be in danger, but really Quigley is asking very nicely where his money is, and Preston is like “Whoopsie, I spent it!” Quigley doesn’t even get that mad considering a child spent a million dollars because he’s willing to settle with taking on the persona of Macintosh to hide his true identity. During that insane conversation, Preston makes a break for it and we’re treated to a Home Alone montage of him beating the bad guys utilizing all of the fancy things he bought for himself. In the last moment where Quigley rises from his grave in the pool like Swamp Thing, Shay and a bunch of other FBI agents storm the scene and save Preston from… Well, whatever is happening here.

Quigley and his team are taken away, including Biderman who screams “But I’m a banker!” as if that was the best line they could come up with, and Preston is left having a heart to heart with Shay - Which is so bizarre because the conversation makes it seem like Shay was actually dating him. Then to top it off, she gives him a kiss on the lips and my brain exploded.

Preston goes home to his family who are like “Okay, you had your fun, now go to bed!” to which he finds his entire family in his bedroom holding a cake (Weren’t they all downstairs 2 seconds ago?). They sing him happy birthday and I’m expecting them to reveal that they are giving Preston a room of his own for his birthday, unknowing he owned a house... But nope. They’re like “Here’s your cake, make a wish!!” At least Preston decides that he has everything he needs right there with his family, but the storytelling dynamic has flown off the rails into another world - And instead of even wishing for anything good, he sees a picture of Shay he’s taped to his wall and instead makes some weird sexual innuendo before blowing out the candles.

And that’s where this film ends.

The moral of this story is supposed to be that money won’t buy you happiness and that family values are more important than money. Instead we get some weird messages about:

A) Forging a check for a million dollars is okay as long as you learn not to do it again.
B) It’s really easy to assume a fake identity.
C) All villains are black or hispanic.
D) It’s okay for adults to date children.
E) Lying is easy to get away with.
F) Threatening children is okay and gets results.
G) Money buys you cool shit.

What are you trying to tell us here, Disney?! How drunk were the writers on this script because these are not the messages I would want to be delivering any child.

The film itself is still fun and wacky in the way that I want every 90’s film to be, but I had a really hard time getting past all of the weird subconscious messages Disney was sending along with this film. It’s fun for a re-watch, but be prepared - And not in the fun kind of sing-a-long way.
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