It’s a common trope for the parents in children’s movies to be awful. There’s usually a parent (frequently the father) who is terrible but goes on to learn a valuable lesson. This week we’ll be discussing how terrible a father Fred Waters from Blank Check is. Fred is the father of main character Preston, despite not being much of one. What sets Blank Check apart from all the other movies with bad parents is that bad parenting is not actually a plot point in this one. The plot of the movie is that a kid who doesn’t have a ton of money finding his way into a million dollars. There was no need for the father to be such a jerk. And because it wasn’t a plot point, there is no resolution to that arc. Sure, at the end the father realizes he needs to spend more time with his son, but there’s no moment where he recognizes anything more than the abstract “I’ve been too hard on him.” Other movies give us specifics. In both “Liar Liar” and “Jingle All The Way” the fathers learn that they have to stop lying so much and prioritize their family over their careers. After Home Alone we’re supposed to believe they recognized that Kevin deserves some love and respect. Definitely after Home Alone 2. I’m sure the second time was the moment they made some changes rather than just realizing that it doesn’t really matter and Kevin will just be fine.
It takes less than five minutes of run time for us to get the first example of Fred’s poor parenting. Preston is forced to give up part of his room because his brothers need more space for their “business.” A business that we never hear about again, by the way, and a business that they bail on to go work for their brother halfway through the movie. Still, in an ideal world having a job shouldn’t just allow you to annex space from your younger brother. Not in Fred’s world though. In Fred’s world he thinks it’s appropriate to teach your children that the Golden Rule is “whoever has the gold, makes the rules.” And then he has the nerve to later say “all the sudden, money has become so important to him.” How dare you? You just took away parts of a 13 year old’s room and told him to get a job. You don’t get to be confused why he cares so much about money.
At the same time Preston is losing portions of his room to computer equipment that his brothers don’t even know how to use, those brothers are beating Preston up and stealing a jar he says is his entire life’s savings. Their father sees all this happening and laughs, then tells Preston he should teach his brothers how to use the computer. His brothers are such neanderthals that when Preston sets the computer’s text to type function up to insult them, they start literally slamming their hands on and around the computer yelling at it. The last time I saw that happen was in Zoolander when they were showing just how stupid Derek and Hansel were. There is no reason a businessman would have any respect for someone so stupid that when a computer starts talking, that person just keeps slapping it and yelling “DELETE!”
Much more serious than choosing which of your children you don’t like is how negligent Fred is. Fred comes upon Preston coordinating multiple teams of contractors and delivery people while standing on the roof of a mansion. Preston explains that everything belongs to his new boss, Macintosh. Fred has zero problem with this and just goes home. Preston is 13 years old in 1993. Labor laws have been in place since the 1930s that stop children from working certain hours on certain days. There is no reason for a 13 year old to have a job as a personal assistant at all, much less without his parents’ knowledge. When I got a paper route at 12, not only did my parents need to sign paperwork, the route manager came to my house to meet them. But even more inconceivable than Preston having a job is that when Fred found out Preston worked for some rich guy nobody had ever heard of, he left without a second thought. That is almost criminally negligent. In fact, Fred doesn’t actually care about meeting Macintosh until it suddenly becomes convenient. Actually, convenient isn’t the right word for it. Fred doesn’t care about meeting Macintosh until Preston pretends that it might be beneficial to Fred’s work. I’ll rephrase this for the people in the back: Fred doesn’t care about meeting the eccentric rich grown up his son is hanging out with. That is negligent at best.
I was raised for several years by a single father before he married again. One of the best things about my father is that he is and always has been very self aware. My father has never been shy about admitting when he makes mistakes. Fred does not have that quality at all. When Preston is chasing a kid who robbed him, the chain falls off of his bike. This leads to the central conflict of the movie, because while he is trying to gt the chain back on, the antagonist nearly hits Preston with his car. After all of this happens, Fred yells at Preston about not taking care of his things, then grounds him. How absurd is that? There’s no moment of “are you okay?” There’s no moment of “Thank goodness the car didn’t hit you!” None of that. It immediately goes to “what have we told you about taking care of your things?!” Absurd. My father always cared about my welfare first, my things second. This also leads directly to a second moment where Fred is selfish and not a particularly attentive parent. The moment Fred thinks that Preston’s relationship with Mr Macintosh could benefit him, Preston isn’t grounded anymore. Ugh.
I think the most clear moment where we realize Fred is completely not self aware is when he says “where did I go wrong?” Look man, I don’t know where exactly things went wrong, but somewhere along the line you taught your kid that it was okay to commit theft, bank fraud, and real estate fraud. Yeah, that’s a big deal. The titular “blank check” in question was given to him to cover the cost of his destroyed bike. He then sat at his computer and typed out gradually increasing amounts until he arrived at one million dollars. He then went to the bank and cashed that fraudulent check and got one million dollars of stolen money. He proceeded to buy a house using someone else’s name. There is so much fraud in the last three sentences that I’m pretty sure I’m on a list somewhere now.
The final moment of insanity on Fred’s part is the very end. Fred sees the FBI at Macintosh’s house. He walks in on a grown woman kissing his son on the lips and doesn’t react because she’s hot. Then, he asks his son what happened, and Preston says “Macintosh turned out to not be what I thought he was.” Fred just rolls with it, puts his arm around Preston’s shoulders and says “sometimes that happens.” I’m sorry, but how insane is that? First, you saw a woman in her 20s kissing your 13 year old son and said nothing. Second, you watch your son’s boss getting arrested by federal agents and don’t have anything to say about that? No soul searching happens in that moment when you realize just allowed your son to hang with a felon for a week (ignoring that it was an imaginary millionaire who was actually a felon trying to kill him). I’ve put my father through a lot, but never something like that so I can’t speak to how he would handle a situation like this. But I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty that if my father suddenly found out that his negligence allowed me to hang out with a felon, he would probably hug me and apologize, and tell me everything was going to be okay. And then he would definitely put me into counseling to deal with the trauma I’d just gone through. Fred just sort of chuckles and the movie ends.
Like I said, it’s no big surprise when the parents are terrible in a movie for kids. But this is a movie with no redeeming qualities for the parents. The mom is absent for almost the entire movie, and the dad is an unapologetic ass who never learns his lesson. There’s no reason for them to be as bad. Clearly dad had to be a little negligent in order for the kid to have the freedom to spend his money. But he didn’t need to be this awful. As usual, I submit to you that Disney has failed us. That’s all for now, love and kisses!
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