Reel Shopping

Paper, plastic and celluloid.

by Martina Marosi

As much a traditional rite as the annual feast of giving thanks in a relaxing, indulgent and family-filled evening is the unharnessed frenzy of Black Friday shopping that kicks off just hours later. Bitter winter winds whistle outside while busy buyers bustle inside the cozy confines of a department store, boutique or shopping mall. To the tune of innocuous seasonal jingles, they scoop up their baubles, bangles and beads in the form of gigantic bags looped around their arms — robust smiles creaking on their cheeks — while being coaxed into a holiday cheer they can take care of on their next billing cycle.

Shopping, and the various locales where it takes place, is a cornerstone of the post-Thanksgiving ritual. It’s the exhilarating, though brief, adventure of loving, purchasing and owning something we’ve set our eyes upon. For us, it could mean the purchase of perhaps some new slippers, a fascinating and inevitably obsolete gadget or even just taking a brief moment to luxuriate before a full-length mirror caressing the collar of a mink coat that is far beyond our means.

For the world of movies, it could mean the iconic, giant keyboard-playing moment that takes place in the legendary FAO Schwarz toy store in “Big,” Cher Horowitz’s carefree and posh shopping lifestyle in “Clueless,” Vivian Ward’s self-reinvention in “Pretty Woman” or the fact that a former bodybuilder will stop at nothing to bring his son the toy of his dreams, as in “Jingle all the Way.”

This holiday season, shopaholics can get their cinematic session of retail therapy before the big day arrives by cashing in on their down time with a few shelf-stocking stuffers before breaking the bank.




Directed by Michael Gottlieb

Starring Andrew McCarthy, Kim Cattrall and Estelle Getty

The Pygmalion myth of creation comes to life and gets a modern twist in this movie when a young sculptor-come-mannequin designer obsesses over a particularly beautiful manufacture of his and is met with disbelief when he claims she’s come to life. A love story set in the exotic world of department store merchandising and window displays, “Mannequin” was largely disdained by critics but has since become a cult classic. Perhaps even the ancient Egyptian spirit hiding in the mannequin’s body (thus explaining its Pinocchio-like realization) lacked sufficient cosmic power to explain away the gaping holes in its plot.


Blank Check


Directed by Rupert Wainwright

Starring Brian Bonsall, Karen Duffy and Miguel Ferrer

It’s payday for 11-year-old tech savvy Preston Waters (Bonsall) when a panicked criminal hands him some hush money in the form of a blank check. Unbeknownst to the fumbling potential bank scammer, Carl Quigley (Ferrer), Waters cashes the carte blanche to the tune of a million simoleons and throws Quigley’s designs into disarray. The pipsqueak schemer then embarks on a shopping spree that would be the envy of Richie Rich himself. Think of an elaborate mansion, the latest gaming technology, flamboyant and oversized ephemera topped off with a personal go-kart track.


The Big Store


Directed by Charles Reisner

Starring Groucho Marx, Chico Marx and Harpo Marx

The Marx Brothers unleash their anarchic hijinks in the lush and luxurious backdrop of a post-war department store in what is arguably their last great classic. When well-heeled heiress Martha Phelps (Margaret Dumont) suspects a conspiracy to compromise her newly acquired wealth, she enlists the hapless talents of Detective Wolf J. Flywheel (Groucho Marx) to investigate. “The Big Store” culminates in an after-hours chase using the likes of roller skates and bicycles to weave through extravagant displays of merchandise, followed by nothing less than the increasingly elaborate musical number “Sing While You Sell” that eventually involves nearly the entire department store staff.


Chopping Mall


Directed Jim Wynorski

Starring Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell and John Terlesky

America’s resting place becomes four romantic couples’ personal hell when a freak storm fries the circuitry controlling a mall’s high-tech security robots. Activated to seek, kill and destroy those who thought to violate the sacred space of a suburban shopping mall, the robots relentlessly pursue the slumber partying rule-breakers when their after-hours stay — and likely every devoted shopper’s fleeting daydream — is met with fatal consequences. Originally released as “Killbotts,” “Chopping Mall” follows the couples’ fight to survive overnight in what can easily become the scariest place on earth.