Saturday, February 4, 2012

The miracle? That they went with this title


It certainly isn't the goal of most family movies to come up with the most original or clever title you've ever heard. In fact, you could argue that the blander it is, the better.

But Big Miracle?

That's particularly uninspired.

Okay, I get it. It's about whales, who are big, and it's about a miraculous saving of the lives of a bunch of whales, which is a miracle. In fact, if the Catholic church could attribute their survival to a single human being, that human being might need only two more miracles to qualify for sainthood.

But Big Miracle is just so ... clumsy.

It would be one thing if "big miracle" were a common phrase people used. Like, "I need a miracle here ... a big miracle."

But it's not. A miracle is not something that be measured in degrees. It's either a miracle or it's not a miracle. The word "miracle" runs the gamut of all possible miraculous things, from arriving back at your car the exact moment before the meter maid pulls up to give you a ticket, all the way to the planet Earth being saved from an approaching asteroid by suddenly moving 10,000 miles to the left. Either of these would be a miracle, or at least, someone could interpret them that way. The word "big" is just excessive. It's like saying "He got beheaded, big time." Nope. There's either having a head or not having a head. (For the record, though, I'm not sure I'd want to see what moving 10,000 miles to the left would do to our planet's agriculture.)

Like I said at the beginning, a family movie does not need to have a particularly clever title. But there are ways of doing it so it's clever enough.

Let's take last year's Dolphin Tale. That's a nice title, while still remaining very simple. It gives you everything you need to know. It tells you the movie is about dolphins, it tells you it's a family movie, but it also throws in a little something for the linguists. It's a "tale" as in a story, but it's about a dolphin who loses her "tail" -- and goes on living. Dolphins aren't supposed to be able to do that, and only with the help of a prosthetic tail was she able to. I'd say that's actually a pretty big miracle, if we're measuring miracles in degrees.

They might have been tempted to make the title Dolphin Tail instead, assuming correctly that if you heard the title spoken aloud, you'd hear the first meaning of the homophone ("tale"), giving them reason to emphasize the second meaning ("tail") in the written text of the title. However, they were probably wise not to -- people might have just thought it was an error.

So how to fix the title Big Miracle?

I don't think you're going to be able to get the word "whale" into the title. There are ways to do it with common phrases -- A Whale of a Time, or something -- but they are too whimsical for the subject matter, and frankly, would probably invite greater derision from a person like me than the current title. (Besides, I doubt those trapped whales really were having a whale of a time.) It's worth noting that the word "whale" does appear in the title of the book on which the movie was based, which is called Freeing the Whales. However, I can understand why they thought they needed something more catchy and less literal than that. (Even if they struck out with Big Miracle, you can tell they were at least trying.)

So, maybe something along the lines of Big Miracle, but not so clunky?

Large Blessing?

Great Fortune?

Humongous Phenomenon?

Not Very Small Really Good Thing?

(I'm liking Big Miracle more and more all the time.)

Coming up with titles is hard, but I also find it a really interesting challenge. In fact, sometimes, when I absently daydream about my own ideas for movies, I come up with the title first and work the plot backward. (An excellent approach to screenwriting, I'll have you know.) I believe that for every movie there should be a perfect title lurking out there. And it's a wonderful feeling when you think they got it just right. I mean, it's a wonderful feeling as a fan -- imagine the feeling if you're the person who came up with the title yourself.

Who knows how long they sat there with Big Miracle, trying to crack it. Cold Ocean, Warm Hearts? Other Fish in the Sea? Whale Tale? Baleen for Boris? I Came to the Arctic Circle and All I Got Was Stuck in the Ice, and This Lousy T-Shirt?

I guess I'm just glad it wasn't my job.

I'll stick to the easier task of coming up with titles for stories that don't exist.

3 comments:

Dawn Grobe said...

Did you know they had a different original title? http://tinyurl.com/3pefl49

I, on the other hand, am annoyed they named the whales Fred, Wilma and Bamm-bamm. I don't care that they aren't called the names from the original story, but Fred and Wilma had Pebbles, not Bamm-bamm.

Vancetastic said...

Interesting, Dawn!

But Everybody Loves Whales is not a great title either. It's a bit Polyanna or something.

Vancetastic said...

Oh, and yeah. Duh! That's Hanna Barbera 101!