Have you ever been lied to? I don’t mean the type of lie where you can tell that the person is lying midway through whatever you are saying. I mean a lie so believable that even as you are experiencing it, you can’t seem to wrap your head around the idea that it isn’t true. These types of lies only happen to a handful of times during our lives and, when uncovered, can alter our entire view on life. Many of these, in fact, happen when we are children, when we are more inclined to have a somewhat fantastical view of the world. We, as children, aren’t capable of believing that what is in front of us can’t possibly be true, and it is the realization of the actual truths that make us into what we are today. The movie Blank Check is one of these lies, and it’s time we finally prove it.
I can’t really tell you much about the circumstances in which I first saw Blank Check, but I can tell you about the emotions that I felt. It is a movie of wonder, exhilaration, and, ultimately, deceit. It is a film so manipulative in its nature, that I, myself, cannot name a single person who has ever had a bad thing to say about it. Think about that fact for a second. What do you remember about Blank Check? You have fond memories, I would assume. Therein lies the genius of the lie at hand, and the skill of manipulation this movie has placed on all of us. A lie so great that we don’t even believe that it’s there. As they say, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.
Blank Check was released in 1994 through Walt Disney Pictures, and stars absolutely no one you will remember. It has the guy who played the Secretary of Defense in Independence Day in it, if that gives you an idea. It also contains famed rapper, Tone Loc, who is best known for his terrible song “Wild Thing”, and when a bunch of other presumably terrible songs that followed “Wild Thing”. It is a story about a boy named Preston Waters, a 12 year old boy with a fascination for money, and an obsession with not remaining, as they say, “broke as fuck” (Preston does not use this exact phrase but one can only imagine this is an encapsulation of his frustration). Preston, amidst his money troubles, crosses paths with three crooks who have just stolen a million dollars, and manages to obtain this million dollars by using a blank check given to him by one of the crooks during a car accident between the two. Now, if you are already confused, don’t worry because the plot up until this point is bullshit, so you are actually right on par with where I need you to be.
A million dollars; that is the number we as kids remember from watching this movie. Preston manages to create a printed check, using his 1994 Macintosh computer, for a million dollars, and then proceeds to swindle one of the other crooks into giving him the million dollars they had stolen. It was a magical moment to watch for us as Preston laid on his bed throwing the countless dollars into the air, as most of us have never seen, and will never see, a million dollars up close.
Here, my friends, is where the lie becomes so enmeshed in our tiny little child brains that we never once questioned what we then saw for the rest of the movie. We watched as Preston, in six short days, spent almost all of his million dollars on almost everything only to learn a lesson about money. However, we took our eyes off the magician’s hands for just one second, and let the trick fool us. The lesson of the movie is not what really matters in this case. Instead, what matters is the fact that Blank Check had us believe that Preston ONLY spent that million dollars, and it left us in a reality that doesn’t exist. It taught us that we can have anything we want in life if we just con our way into it (what up, Trump), it taught us to devalue money and to believe that a million dollars was unfathomable amount of money and, finally, it taught us that as long as we have a Macintosh computer that we can somehow figure out a way to print enough money to be rich. It lied to us over and over again for 90 minutes, and it left us in denial for many years to come.
I assume, though, you want the proof. Ah yes, the proof that Preston didn’t really just spend a million dollars, but, in fact, spent much more and that the movie paid no consequences for such a fallacy. Let’s start with a couple of facts we know beforehand. First, the rate of inflation between 1994 to 2016 is -38.5%, meaning that if I were to purchase something for $100 in 2016, it would have cost me only $61.53 for that exact same item in 1994. The reason I know this is because I Googled “How to calculate Inflation rates between 1994 and 2016”. Second, one must also take well-rounded, educated guesses at the amount of something Preston may have purchased during the six days he had this money. For instance, we see him buy brand new suits, but never fully see how many he buys, so we will give him the benefit of the doubt based on how many we see him with on screen. Lastly, we will never fully know how much Preston actually spent but we are going to do our best to figure out how much he most likely spent compared to the million dollars he started with.
Preston’s first purchase is of a castle. Yes, a fucking castle, so this is a terrible start for Preston on, not only the investment front, but also a bold purchase for a 12 year old child who lives with his parents. In the movie, Preston purchases the house for $300,000 against its original cost of $220,000. Now, I did a little outside research and found that this castle actually does exist and is located in Austin, Texas. It’s net worth not is $5.2 million dollars, and with adjusted inflation costs right around $3.2 million dollars in 1994. So, congratulations Preston, you are fucking broke.
However, let’s imagine that a giant castle in the middle of the suburbs only runs you $220,000 dollars. Let’s also imagine Preston gets it for $300,000. He is now down to $700,000, and in one short hour has developed the spending rates of Charles Barkley in Las Vegas. The next scene shows Preston spending more of his money at various clothing stores. Now, there is really only one way to calculate the cost of what Preston is buying and that is to guess at the type of brands being shown to us. Preston is shown trying on at least three different outfits, so we will give him the benefit of the doubt in which that is all that he bought. The only way in which I could calculate this was to take the most common clothing brand on the planet which is Ralph Lauren. Now, the average men’s shirt for Ralph Lauren is $55, the average pair of sunglasses is $120, the average dress shirt is $90, and the average jeans cost $75. Adjusted for inflation and multiplied by three, and Preston spent around $600 in clothing during this short clip.
Next, he is shown in an electronics store purchasing an entire row of TV’s (I counted at least 12 so we will say 12), a stereo system, a massage chair, and then eventually buys a Nerf gun set. Let’s do the math, shall we?
- Twelve TV’s (let us use Samsung 40-inch screens adjusted for inflation: $8,112
- Sound system: $846
- Two massage chairs: $8,600
- Nerf Guns: $123
Preston spent another $17,681 on appliances and clothes alone in the same day. However, we forgot to calculate a very important component to Preston’s budget: his limo driver, Henry. Preston pays Henry for his services for the entire six days, and that comes out to a hefty fee. Now, the average price, adjusted for inflation, of a limo driver is $67. We then must multiply that $67 by the 144 hours he employs Henry which comes out to, roughly, $10,000 dollars. So, if you are keeping track Preston has spent roughly $328,000 dollars of his money up until this point, and that is not including some of the other purchases. I decided to expedite the adding process here and roughly estimated that Preston most likely spent at least another $10,000 dollars on products we did not see.
Now, let’s add some of the home furnishings that we know Preston also purchased. He is seen ordering around trucks of Chips Ahoy ($1,000), Coke ($5,000), Sharper Image ($20,000), and a security system for the castle ($10,000). Preston also purchased a Water Park in his backyard, which would have run him around $60,000 dollars minimum (plus underground installation which can only be best estimated as at least $100,000 as well), and at least three go-carts plus a track ($4,500 for the carts, $70,000 for the track). If you are keeping track, Preston is now up to an additional $270,500 added to his spendings, which puts him at a remaining budget of $402,000 if we are being lenient.
Let’s talk home furnishings just briefly. Considering inflation once again, and the fact that Preston would have needed to furnish both the inside and outside of his house, my calculations put him at around another $150,000 spent just on finishing up the castle that he so irresponsibly bought. We haven’t even gotten to the part where Preston, a twelve year old kid, takes a grown woman, Shay, out to dinner and buys her a diamond necklace (another $4,000 gone). The reason I chose to not dive into this nonsensical pit is that I would have to explain how a woman working for the FBI is somehow conned into dating a man (Mr. Macintosh, Preston’s alter ego who doesn’t exist) she has never met using Preston as a proxy, while also investigating a case that ties directly back to the same dude she thinks she’s dating. Can we please get Shay a Tinder account or Instant Messenger or something? In the meantime, Preston has also been seen purchasing an inflatable boxing ring ($3,000), a batting cage ($2,000), and is seen wearing additional clothing (cost calculations ended up around $2,000).
Before we get to the last great expenditure by Preston, we might as well add up some of the major guesses we will have to take with his budget in order to fully analyze what he spent. We can assume that when he is originally having the trucks of products roll in, that an additional $50-100,000 dollars were spent assuming the size of the street Preston lived on in comparison to how many trucks might fit on that street. That also takes into account the amount of trucks his dad walks by upon figuring out Preston is “working” in the castle he purchased. We can then speculate that Preston also must pay a house cleaning staff of at least ten people, and we can calculate that their average cost comes out to somewhere around what Henry is making driving the limo. That puts us at another $60,000 for the staff, roughly. We can also imagine that Preston’s closet has closer to $80,000 dollars worth of clothes in it based on his spending habits and the stores in which he can be seen traveling to. Finally, it is safe to say Preston paid for all of the gas that Henry was using to take him places (because Preston and Henry seemed to share a close bond and it seems like something Preston would have done to build their friendship up and not make the fact that he’s paying Henry seem weird), which would then put Preston at around an extra $1,000 in the six days.
Preston’s remaining budget is $79,000, and he still hasn’t thrown his “Mr. Macintosh” celebration which no one seems to realize is not a real thing and that Mr. Macintosh is not a real person (Seriously, Henry was floored and probably heartbroken). On average, a black tie event of that size including catering, and adjusted for inflation, would run Preston right around $100-150,000 when you also include invitations (how did people RSVP to a party in twelve hours?) and car service. As you can clearly see, Preston would realistically owe quite a bit of money and would have bounced a shitload of checks. The final budget for Preston would be in the ball park of at least $60,000 over his mark, and that is not including anything we as an audience did not witness him buy, all of the items we can only guess that he bought, and also not paying attention to the fact that the house he bought was really worth two million fucking dollars to begin with.
Blank Check is a movie of fallacies. It has questionable characters who go on dates with twelve year old kids, terrible crooks who base their entire scheme around a small cash grab of a million dollars, and a farfetched lie that a man named “Mr. Macintosh” can purchase all of these items and no one seems to wonder why the only person they can about this is a douchey kid in a New Kids on the Block outfit. Most of all, though, Blank Check made us believe that money could literally buy you anything you wanted, even if the numbers didn’t add up. Blank Check is the movie equivalent of Enron, and we were too blind and naive to notice. I know at first it will be hard, to accept but I challenge you to run the numbers yourself. Add them up, and face what you find wholeheartedly. Sometimes, the only way to get over being lied to is to, hopefully, learn something new about yourself. I am certain that I did.