Thursday, February 3, 2011

May I borrow a word?

Note: From Prada to Nada snuck up on me and came out last Friday. Shoot. I could have written this post then instead of my wordless dismissal of The Rite.

When I saw that there was a movie called From Prada to Nada coming out, I thought two things:

1) "That's sort of a clever title."

2) "Any box office it gets, it will owe to The Devil Wears Prada."

It's not a new trick to "borrow" one of the words in the title of a popular movie -- especially if the borrower is from the same genre -- to help create awareness about the borrower, which tends to be an underdog. This occurs in its most extreme form with mockbusters, discussed here. These are essentially blatant attempts to fool the public, such as trying to convince them that the straight-to-DVD movie The DaVinci Treasure is actually Ron Howard's The DaVinci Code.

But more legitimate films do it all the time, sometimes in ways that are covert enough not to draw suspicion (except in bloggers like me who have nothing better to do). For example, I felt pretty certain that the original British version of Death at a Funeral -- an ensemble set in England featuring a lot awkwardness and absurd shenanigans -- was a transparent attempt to capitalize on the name recognition of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Then there are the more obvious examples, like Sunshine Cleaning and Little Miss Sunshine (both films even starred Alan Arkin). Then there are the movies that seem like they're borrowing, but it's actually just a coincidence. Take District 13: Ultimatum. A blatant grab at the District 9 brand, right? Nope -- a sequel to District B-13, which came out in 2004.

So I thought that today, in honor of From Prada to Nada, I would try to present some other titles we might be seeing in the next year or two. Such as:

Ain't Nothing But a Slumdog
The Shirt Locker
Attack of the Avatars
The Iron Fist
The Social Contract
Hung Over
The Secret Life of Toys
Caribbean Adventures
Total Eclipse
It's Greek to Me
Some Like It Hot Tub

Question: Did I think I was going to come up with a funnier list of fake titles when I started this?

Answer: Yep.


Fletch said...

I like your overall point, and definitely agree as it pertains to Nada, but I gotta disagree on Death at a Funeral. Four Weddings came out, what, 15 years before even the original DAAF? I think that's enough of a gap that it's not piggy-backing.

Also, there was a movie called Total Eclipse that came out in the 90s, too.

Vancetastic said...

Fair enough. However, I tend to think that name recognition has potential benefits that stretch out many years, for the same reason that studios keep reviving old properties -- audiences are familiar with them, and if you can subconsciously relate one movie to another, you're going to see some benefit from that at the box office. I think in the case of DAAF in particular, the plot revolved around a funeral, so any capitalizing on Four Weddings would just be a happy byproduct. Whereas, Sunshine Cleaning probably could have used any name for the cleaning company.

It doesn't surprise me that there has already been a movie called Total Eclipse. I have been thinking recently that many of the turns of phrase we use have been used as a movie title at least once, even if the film was straight to DVD and nobody saw it. But just because a title exists doesn't mean they won't reuse it. The Liam Neeson thriller Unknown, releasing in a couple weeks, is the fourth different movie called Unknown since 2005, according to IMDB.

Fletch said...

Yeah, I agree. It all comes down to intent. For Sunshine Cleaning, the association was way too blatant (thankfully, it was still a pretty good movie). But I don't think it was intentional to link DAAF to 4WAAF.

Liam Neeson hearts one-word titles. :D Taken. Unknown. Chloe. And those are all just in the last two years or so!