Thursday, December 01, 2011

Movie Titles That State the Premise

As I've discussed many times, I like any movie with the guts to say its own title.

But what about movies that state their premise in the title? That's the subject of a recent Slate story, which laments the fact that the names of so many films and TV shows these days are expository:

This week Fox premieres a new half-hour sitcom starring Jaime Pressly and Katie Finneran titled I Hate My Teenage Daughter. Early semiotic analysis indicates it’s about two women who hate their teenage daughters. As such, the premise is unlikely to surprise viewers of CBS’s 2 Broke Girls, which — spoiler alert — follows the lives of two broke girls. 
Indeed, the two shows are but the latest in a cavalcade of Hollywood products outfitted not with a title but a blunt abbreviation of a concept. Ads for these releases paper bus stops and billboards, resembling, in their flagrance, whacky American hits in crude translation: Tower Heist, Our Idiot Brother, Bridesmaids, Stepbrothers, Wedding Crashers, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Snakes on a Plane, Cowboys and Aliens, Alien vs. Predator, The Social Network.

I think the author muddles his point with some of these examples. "Bridesmaids" and "Stepbrothers" don't really state their premises — certainly neither title contains a high-concept "elevator pitch" that would make a producer interested in the project. ("Star Wars," released almost 35 years ago, was far more overshare-y with its title.)

Anyway, the writer blames YouTube for the trend, since most of those videos tell you upfront what they're about. (Am I guilty of this with "The Happiest Baby on Earth"?)

I'm not sure if this is a related issue, but I do very much like the opening sequence to the sitcom "The New Girl." The theme song repeatedly asks, "Who's that girl?" before telling the audience, "It's Jess!"

If that's destroying the mystery, so be it.