James L. Brooks' 'How Do You Know' opens this week, and it may be hard to tell that title from any other movie currently playing, or indeed, to remember it at all. Coming up with a good title is an art in itself, and some filmmakers just don't have the touch. If you think of it, 'How Do You Know' could actually be the title of just about any movie ever made. 'The Godfather'? Yep. 'Jaws'? Certainly. There are any number of boring movie titles, and Brooks in particular is responsible for two more: 'As Good as It Gets,' and 'I'll Do Anything.' Or how about Nancy Myers' 'Something's Gotta Give' and 'It's Complicated'? Then we have the random application of song titles to movies, such as 'Can't Hardly Wait' and 'Just Like Heaven.' I could have spent hours coming up with a list of hundreds, so I thought I would limit my search just to 2010. As it is, I came up with about 25 sleep-inducing examples, and these are the bottom seven.
1. 'Remember Me'
This plea from a heavy Rob Pattinson tearjerker was practically a guarantee that we would not remember it.
2. 'Let Me In'
Yes, this remake turned out to be one of the most acclaimed American films of 2010, but very few would argue that it's better than the original Swedish film. The main reason is that it's a perfect example how of movies are dumbed down for Americans. Never mind that it has more frequent violence and a ham-handed backstory to help explain the characters' motivations; that title is the biggest problem. The nicely-worded original title, 'Let the Right One In,' had sinister connotations, but this one has been reduced to a simple, soft title that any non-vampire drama could have used. The only positive is that it can't be mistaken for the original.
3. 'Life as We Know It'
Romantic comedies usually get the most generic titles, but this one -- also one of the year's worst films -- takes the cake. What film isn't about "life as we know it"? Even 'The Lord of the Rings' or 'The Shawshank Redemption' could be about "life as we know it," when you get right down to it. This title is so boring that, even though I saw the movie in October, I keep having to look it up to remind myself what it was.
4. 'Never Let Me Go'
This one is getting some year-end acclaim, and it's not a romantic comedy. But does this title tell you anything about a scary dystopian tale of inhuman medical practices? For that matter, does the title 'All Good Things' tell anything about a disintegrating marriage and a string of missing and/or dead bodies?
5. (TIE) 'Dear John' and 'Letters to Juliet'
Did anyone else get these two Amanda Seyfried movies mixed up? I didn't see either one of them, but I'd have to do a little research to tell you which one was which. Firstly, is there anything less cinematic than someone writing a letter? Secondly, couldn't they have come up with something more dynamic than 'John' and 'Juliet'? What about some memorable nicknames? Why not 'Dear Meathead' and 'Letters to Sexypants'?
6. (TIE) 'Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole' and 'Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief'
These were both attempts to create some kind of new 'Harry Potter'-style franchise, but the attempts were as obvious as they were lazy. I reviewed 'Percy Jackson' back in February, and I had to look up the title several times, even while I was writing my review. I did not see 'Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole,' but it's hard to stay awake until you get to the end of that mouthful. At least it has the word 'Owls' in it. I took to calling it 'the Owls movie.' It'll only get more confusing if sequels are made for these two duds. This goes for just about any movie with a colon in the title. See also 'Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.'
Of course, sometimes even a good movie can have a bad title. It pains me to list this one here, as I think Sofia Coppola's movie is one of the year's best. If you love a movie, that's a huge help in remembering a soft title like 'Somewhere.' And, indeed, in this story of a lost and bored Hollywood actor, the title more or less fits. But it's still one of those very minor, passive titles that will totally disappear if someone is combing through the current listings. See also Mike Leigh's 'Another Year.'
Runners Up: 'The American,' 'Biutiful,' 'Charlie St. Cloud,' 'Edge of Darkness,' 'Extraordinary Measures,' 'Just Wright,' 'The Next Three Days,' 'The Switch,' 'Takers,' 'The Town,' 'Why Did I Get Married Too? ,' 'You Again'