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Published: Thursday, 7/28/2005

The titles tell the tale

Be honest: Do ever you pick (or avoid) movies based on how muscular or cutesy or corny or sinister or ridiculous the title is?

Oh, sure you do.

Otherwise Columbia wouldn t gravitate to the sleek-though-generic-sounding Stealth, opening tomorrow. (Jamie Foxx and the Homicidal Jet is not as catchy.) On the other hand, a sleek and generic title can be a pretty good indication of what s behind it as it is with a flip-through-and-leave-behind beach read.

The more blunt the title, the more likely you are to have a helicopter chase and explosion. The fewer number of words on the marquee, the fewer number of brain cells you ll be expending.


Our pop cultural DNA tells us this is so: Mindhunters will never be confused with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Hide and Seek? Could be a slumming Robert DeNiro thriller. Could be the latest James Patterson novel.

But you know it s nothing like Must Love Dogs, the new John Cusack and Diane Lane romantic comedy itself an adaptation of a Claire Cook book with a small following. Which probably explains why a title so huh?-inducing survived its focus-group testing at Warner Bros. Occasionally, perhaps you ve heard, a title gets tweaked and clarified.

The Madness of George III became The Madness of King George for fear some moviegoers would think it s a sequel.

And that s an art house flick.

Cameron Crowe s Vanilla Sky became Cameron Crowe s Almost Famous which had originally just been titled Untitled.

Sky High, the new live-action Disney comedy about a family of superheroes, has a title more clever than you might realize: it refers to a high school in the clouds, not just the power of flight which is fitting: The film is way better than it sounds, too.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, is not only (after March of the Penguins) the second bird documentary in as many weeks, it could really use a colon: That s the latest trend in titles. It tells the story of a San Francisco musician and, well, wild parrots. How about The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: Rattle and Hum?

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: The Meaning of Existence?

It has to be better than Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life or Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World or Dodgeball: An Underdog Story or Anacondas: The Hunt for Blood Orchid or coming next month, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. What s could be next, Question Mark: The Mystery of the Colon?

Christopher Borrelli

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