Gift-giving is laden with meaning. The present you choose says something about you, about the recipient, and about the relationship between the two parties. Gift guides may be published by the thousand, but how about turning to the movies for a bit of advice? Surely there are some ideas to be filched from the silver screen when it comes to choosing that special something for that special someone? Cinema can be inspirational and aspirational, but it can also sound a warning to choose your gifts wisely. A bad present can cause all manner of trouble for everyone involved. Here are some of the worst gifts in movies...
Sometimes a gift can feel like an imposition, especially when it comes with a long list of care instructions. Keep it out of direct light, don’t get it wet, don’t feed it after midnight. If a dog is for life, not just for Christmas, then that’s doubly true for a Mogwai. Carnage is coming to Kingston Falls this holiday season, after Billy is gifted a furry critter called Gizmo, picked up by his father at an antique store in Chinatown. When the rules are broken, anarchy reigns, as a horde of malevolent Gremlins are unleashed on the town. Director Joe Dante’s skewering of small-town fears and the very notion of seasonal goodwill is a riotous blast of cultural desecration, and a warning against that post-midnight Boxing Day snack if ever there was one.
At least you know where you stand with a Gremlin. They’re agents of chaos, and it’s best to just keep out of their way. Things get a little trickier when the doll you bought for your son’s sixth birthday turns out to be possessed by the soul of a notorious serial killer. Andy has always wanted a Good Guy doll, but this Good Guy doll now wants Andy. The wellspring of a million childhood nightmares, Child’s Play is the pint-sized slasher that brought Chucky into the cultural lexicon. It’s not such a leap of fancy to think that it’s taken four Toy Story movies to scrub the idea from the popular imagination that when toys come to life, they’re likely to be armed to the teeth.
A well-chosen gift can cut straight to the heart. At least, that’s what Stacy is hoping. She’s still pining for Wayne, two months after they broke up. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t still go out,” she tells him, hopefully. She’s cornered him in the diner, a huge parcel in her arms. “Don’t you wanna open your present?” she asks, the gold-plated ‘WAYNE’ charm around her neck catching the light. Cue the unwrapping of one of the best worst presents in cinema, hilarious in its nonsensical randomness. “It’s a gun rack!” Stacy beams. “I don’t even own a gun,” comes Wayne’s baffled reply, “Let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack.” Stacy makes her exit, still none the wiser, “If you’re not careful Wayne, you’re going to lose me.”
If there’s one unwritten rule to giving presents, it’s that re-gifting is a big no-no. Especially when you try to give the gift in question back to the person that gave it to you in the first place. The concept of re-gifting makes for the best running joke in the Will Ferrell comedy, Old School. He’s trying to shift a bread machine he was given for his wedding, and uses every special occasion as an opportunity to palm off the item in question. “It’s got three speeds!” he tells the three year old sitting on the lap of a clown, as his buddy—who gave him the present in the first place—looks on with crumpled disappointment.
The music of Joni Mitchell is already so rich with meaning, you’d be hard pressed to laden it with more. But that’s exactly what happens in one of Love Actually’s most poignant moments. Karen (Emma Thompson) is expecting a necklace for Christmas from her husband, the gift she’s already spied in his pocket. When she opens her present, and finds he’s given her a Joni Mitchell CD intended to “continue your emotional education,” she knows the truth—that the necklace was intended for another woman. There are lessons to be learned here: don’t cheat on your wife, hide your presents properly, especially if they’re intended for your bit on the side, and never—ever—disrespect Joni Mitchell.
Cinema may have peaked in the useless gift department with Wayne’s gun rack, but there’s still one drunken Santa ready to make his bid for greatness. Thurman Merman is a special kid. Or at least, he’s on the special side. He loves Christmas, and he loves Santa—even when the one standing in front of him is a sex-addicted alcoholic. To show his love for old St. Nick, he’s whittled him a present: a wooden pickle caked in his own blood. Even the irascible chimney-botherer is moved by Thurman’s bizarrely sweet gesture. It’s the thought that counts, right?
Looking for last minute gifts for couples, read our ideas >.