Disney's Blank Check Unintentionally Hates Capitalism

cw: grooming

Disney’s Blank Check is a miserable film. It encourages the worst impulses of children. It praises wealth and capitalism with no regard for what one does with either. And then there’s the hideous grooming subplot along with the grooming-adjacent other characters.

But it says something the writer did not intend: capitalism corrupts.

The lead boy (Preston) has no friends, is picked on, and is last in command of his 5-person household. His brothers get to open an office for their business in his room. Nobody cares about him.

Then he gets a million dollars, and he can pay an adult chauffeur to be his friend. He bosses around many of the adults who would never give him the time of day otherwise. His dad respects him for having a job. He can bumble his way through a fancy restaurant that would have kicked him out if he didn’t have money. His personality is about as rotten as it was before. All he did was get rich.

Preston’s family worships capitalism. The dad encourages him to get a job at age “12” (he looks and acts 8, making the grooming plot all the more disturbing). Dad says he had a job when he was young, and it’s clearly enough to make his dad give up Preston’s room to his other sons. Money talks: “He who has the gold makes the rules.” This subplot is clumsily wrapped up twice at the end of Blank Check. His dad says he grew up too fast and was too concerned with money to have a childhood, and Preston likes his low-key family birthday more than his extravagant bash.

Preston cares about nobody but himself, making him right at home in America’s elite. He spends foolishly, and I don’t think he ever so much as tips extra. Donating to the poor never crosses his mind. I can semi-excuse this because his dad is a tightwad and makes him feel poor, but if he knew how the world worked, he’d know how lucky he was even without the blank check. He throws around wads of cash worth more than the services he receives, but it’s framed as transactional (you will do what I say) rather than moral or appreciative (you deserve this). He has no taste, but he has money, so nobody says no.

The grooming plot is ostensibly about an FBI agent getting close to Preston and his money-laundering employer (Preston himself, though nobody knows that). But the very first shot of this FBI agent is a male-gaze feet to face pan. Every scene with this woman is upsetting. It works on a few levels: money makes people do things they wouldn’t do otherwise. People with money make the rules, but people with more money make the super-rules. The criminal that gave Preston the money upset the balance, and had to be brought back in line by the forces of capital. This is mirrored by Preston immediately hiring private security for his literal castle. Capital’s first concern is with hoarding wealth. If you want to make money, kids, do it the right way. Stealing is very clearly wrong but capitalism is the economic system of this country and that makes it okay! Work hard and climb the ladder, which is not an illusion!

PS: this is one of only two movies [co]written by the author of Save the Cat. Save the Cat is the Bible of Hollywood screenwriting, to the annoyance of some. Although he allegedly sold 12+ screenplays for big bucks (Snyder’s biographies are lifted from his site, and this claim is unverified), only two made it all the way to final film with his name on it. He couldn’t have been that good a screenwriter if his films never got made without heavy rewrites. Especially if this shitpile with no subtlety or artistry is an example of his craft.