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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Blank Check' Fantasy Buys Into Materialism

February 11, 1994|PETER RAINER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eleven-year-old Preston Waters (Brian Bonsall) finds himself the recipient of a blank check in "Blank Check" (citywide) and proceeds to cash it for a million bucks and shower himself with toys and gizmos. It's a child's fantasy that's also an adult fantasy--particularly in Hollywood. For its producers, the fantasy, of course, is that the movie will shower them with millions.

It's also clear from the get-go that this movie also wants to practice Good Values--it wants to demonstrate that money isn't everything. It's a standard Hollywood two-step: Indulge but Moralize.

Preston is supposed to be a nerdy kid whose father (James Rebhorn) is a taskmaster and skinflint. Actually, Preston seems pretty spunky. His creepy rep with his classmates is undeserved. Have our filmmakers even forgotten how to convincingly characterize a nerd? Was "Revenge of the Nerds" all for naught?

A movie about a kid who goes gaga buying toys and gizmos is a natural for product placements; there is so much brand-name merchandise highlighted in this film that watching it is like riffling though a mail-order catalogue.

*

For the children in the audience, all those gizmos may turn out to be overkill. What's missing from this film is any trace of the joy in simple pleasures. Preston isn't a very imaginative child; he's a goodies gatherer.

The supporting cast tries hard to inject some spunk into the proceedings. As the bad guy whose blank check sets the plot in motion, Miguel Ferrer does a junior-league variation on his even worse guy in "RoboCop." Tone Loc shows up as Ferrer's assistant, and he's so out of place in this fantasy that he seems weirdly in place. Best is Rick Ducommun as Preston's chauffeur; his scenes with the boy have a goofy charm. They both have a weakness for tubs of ice cream. Miraculously, the ice cream is not identified by brand.

'Blank Check'

Brian Bonsall: Preston Waters

Karen Duffy: Shay Stanley

James Rebhorn: Fred Waters

Jayne Atkinson: Sandra Waters

A Walt Disney Pictures presentation. Director Rupert Wainwright. Producers Craig Baumgarten and Gary Adelson. Executive producers Hilary Wayne and Blake Snyder. Screenplay by Blake Snyder and Colby Carr. Cinematographer Bill Pope. Editors Hubert de La Bouillerie and Jill Savitt. Costumes Deborah Everton. Music Nicholas Pike. Production design Nelson Coates. Art director Burton Rencher. Set decorator Cecilia Rodarte. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes.

MPAA-rating PG, for language and thematic situations. Times guidelines: It includes buying sprees you wouldn't want your kid to imitate.

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