Monday, August 9, 2010

The Worst Movie Titles That Almost Were

Leonardo DiCaprio once posed the immortal question: "What's in a name?" But instead of allowing his beloved Claire Danes to answer, he just kept prattling on about roses and feet and the next thing you know they're both dead in a sea of neon crucifixes. The moral of the story: Titles matter. I mean, that tragedy was almost called Romeo & Ethel, The Pirate's Daughter. What's more, that story actually was once called Romeo and Juliet, but it wasn't until Baz Luhrmann infused it with that sexy ampersand that anyone cared. Proof, meet pudding.

Hollywood has long understood the power of a strong title, and films are often endlessly renamed throughout their long production cycles in order for the studio to arrive at the perfect thing to slap on the marquee. While that practice hasn't prevented a few truly terrible titles from getting out there (I'm looking at you,
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever... but I'm not really looking at you, because that would be painful), some films heading for certain disaster have been able to dodge that bullet at the last minute. Just this month, in fact, two such movies have avoided that fate.

Jennifer Aniston / Jason Bateman rom-com The Switch was once known as The Baster (it's about sperm), a working title which endured until post-production, while the gangster flick Takers was inexplicably called Bone Deep. Bone. Deep. Thanks to such fine marketing moves, these two films won't horribly fail because of their titles, but rather because they're obviously awful.

Here's a cursory glimpse at some other films that changed their titles for the better just in the nick of time.

Tonight He Comes became Hancock.

Headcheese became The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Tomorrow Never Lies became Tomorrow Never Dies because typos should never be underestimated.

Ecks vs. Sever became Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever because the original title just wasn't ballistic enough.

Route 66 became Cars (and The Grapes of Wrath almost became Route 66because the Steinbeck novel from which the film was adapted wasn't so popular down South back then).

The Madness of King George The Third became The Madness of King George because the distributor feared audiences would have assumed it was a sequel (for reals).

Extremely Violent became Last Action Hero because, um, the movie isn't extremely violent.

Take It Like A Man became Boys Don't Cry because Fox Searchlight decided that the title of their movie probably shouldn't be a direct allusion to the graphic rape contained therein.

This Side of Truth became Invention of Lying because the movie is about the invention of lying, and it seemed appropriate to give the film a literal title. Extended Allegory for Atheism that Somehow Manages to Waste Louis C.K. also would have worked.

Coma Guy became While You Were Sleeping because the original title suggested that Peter Gallagher's character fought crime by slipping into extended bouts of vegetative unconsciousness.
The Presbyterian Church Wager became McCabe & Mrs. Miller, because Robert Altman wanted people to actually see one of his very best films.
Anhedonia became Annie Hall. Anhedonia - or the inability to feel pleasure - would later come to describe the audiences of future Woody Allen films like Melinda and Melinda, as well as innocent readers forced to endure a blogger's Melinda and Melinda jokes.

Eaters of the Dead became The 13th Warrior, thus abandoning the title of the Michael Crichton novel on which the film was based. Because if there's anything audiences avoid, it's movies based on Michael Crichton novels.

3000 became Pretty Woman, 3000 dollars being Julia Roberts' character's fee for an evening. Had they not made the obvious decision to change this title, Bernie Mac's Mr. 3000 might have been perceived as a particularly bold re-imaging.
Renaissance Man became By The Book which then became .
Renaissance Man The Danny Devito classic (Gregory Hines! James Remar! Young Stacey Dash! Mark Wahlberg's film debut!) first bombed out of theaters as Renaissance Man, and was then re-released as By the Book a few months later in the hopes that no one would notice. No one did.

Many of these are among the more storied examples of such switches, so please feel free to add to the list if any others spring to mind or if you happen to stumble upon any good finds on IMDB.


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