I have often dreamed of being a movie critic, and not just any movie critic. I want to be important like the late, great Roger Ebert. Movie goers would hang on my every word, and my job would be to watch movies all day, which is all I want to do most days any way.
That job would be perfect for me. Except I always forget the number of awful movies Mr. Ebert must have seen. I like my current job better than watching a bad movie, though they have plenty in common.
So just for fun this week, I am going to pretend that the political maneuvers I have been watching are actual cinematic releases and I am that critic. And while the abundance of bad political drama actually is great for guys who do what I do, the popcorn is comparatively lousy.
This week we are reviewing a new flick released by Governor Mike Pence, “That’s Our Money 2.” It’s a follow up release to the 2014 flop “That’s Our Money.” I’m not big on sequels, which is why this one was playing from behind before I watched it.
In the original, the governor refused to apply for an $80 million grant from the federal government to fund pre-kindergarten programming. Indiana and Arizona had the inside track on the grants, which would have been paid in equal installments over four years. And although Indiana had applied for the same grant in 2013 but was denied, this time the governor decided to not even apply. That decision was made on the deadline for the application, much to the surprise of those in state government who had been preparing it.
It was like the ending of “The Usual Suspects,” in that no one saw it coming, but was also like “Waterworld” in that it made no sense at all.
The big finish in the governor’s first movie ended with his letter to the editor in the Indianapolis Star on October 20, 2014 when he wrote:
“While accepting federal grant dollars can at times be justified to advance our state’s objectives, when it comes to early childhood education, I believe Indiana must develop our own pre-K program without federal intrusion.”
The funny thing about about federal dollars is this: that’s our money. Hence, the movie title.
Now it is 2016 in Indiana, and our incumbent governor is not riding the sixty percent approval rating he had when the first movie came out in October of 2014. He needs a little boost. So we get a sequel.
In the new movie, will we want the money again like in 2013? That would be a plot difficult for me to criticize. After all, that money already belongs to us. Even for conservatives, but especially for moderates, the threat of “federal intrusion” just isn’t scary. The first movie failed to develop that mysterious villain at all.
So “That’s Our Money 2” starts with a Pence campaign ad narrated by Indiana First Lady Karen Pence touting education gains here. “Our students are really beginning to excel” she says in the ad. That’s good news. Expect Democrats to attack the ad by referring back to the first “That’s Our Money,” hammering Pence for shockingly not wanting our own money to actually help that excelleration.
But in conjunction with the ad, on June 2, Governor Pence creatively sends a letter to Secretary Sylvia Burwell of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expressing his desire to expand pre-k education for disadvantaged children. HHS oversees the Preschool Development Program grants authorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
It is a stunning turn of events. We actually do want the money. “Stunning” is an overstatement, since you know, the money is already ours.
Both of these movies turn out to be shallow and void of logic. The only thing with less depth than these movies, is the producer’s apparent view of its target audience. I am clearly not part of that target.
Critics never like movies like this. Sequels in general are tough to pull off unless you are George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. Neither of these guys are in on the “That’s Our Money” series, and rightfully so.
So back to the pithy review: the first one was bad because it was so unbelievable, but the second one is worse because it tries to convince us the first one was legitimate in the first place. It wasn’t.
“That’s Our Money 2” gets an enthusiastic thumbs down, and until next time, the balcony is closed.