Once a pun a time

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An update on the situation with the movies that have pun titles: After I mentioned it last week (prompted by “Who’s Your Caddy?”), several readers pointed out some films that use this sort of wordplay. Here’s what they came up with:

“Octopussy”
“The Aristocats”
“The Nightmare Before Christmas”
“Dead & Breakfast”
“Lucky Number Slevin”
“My, Myself, & Irene”
“Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous”
“The Work and the Story” (referencing “The Work and the Glory,” a series of Mormon historical-fiction novels)
“The Beautician and the Beast”
“Adam & Steve”
“Juwanna Mann”
“The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas”
“Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde”

On my own I remembered “Blacula” (the black version of “Dracula”) and “Shanghai Noon” (variation of “High Noon”).

Someone mentioned “Hot Fuzz,” which is apparently a variant on “hot fuss,” an expression I have never heard before but which evidently exists.

It was proposed that “Blades of Glory” might be a play on “blaze of glory.” That could be true, but even if it isn’t, “Blades of Glory” works as a title by itself. It sound intentionally, hyperbolically awesome, a tone that fits the movie perfectly.

Someone suggested “The Man Who Knew Too Little,” but I’m disqualifying it. It’s a variant of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” of course, but it’s not a pun because “Much” and “Little” don’t sound alike. “The Man Who Knew Two Dutch” would be a pun.

I’m not sure about “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” either, which was also brought up. It’s obviously meant to remind us of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” from the old cartoon version of “The Three Little Pigs.” But I don’t know that I’d call it a pun. It’s more of a clever variation, intended to suggest one thing despite being about something completely different. If there weren’t actually a person named Virginia Woolf, I’d be more inclined to consider it.

Also: Someone spotted my review of the 2004 Sundance film “Home of Phobia,” about a college student who pretends to be gay in order to get a girl to like him. It’s allegedly finally being released this fall — under a new, non-punny title, “Freshman Orientation.” This is a vast improvement, and is far more clever, what with “orientation” having two possible meanings in this context.

Anyway, we see from this list that while most of the films are mediocre or bad, there are certainly some exceptions. But we can still acknowledge, for example, that while “Octopussy” might be a fine James Bond film, it still has a lousy title. Likewise, “Lucky Number Slevin” is a pretty decent caper, but that title — ugh.

I like “The Aristocats” as a title because the Disney cartoon is about well-to-do felines. What else would you call them but aristocats? It’s a pun, yes, but a good one. In fact, maybe it’s not a pun at all but rather a brand-new word, comparable to “bromance” (when two guys enjoy hanging out together in a completely straight, non-sexual way), “manny” (a male nanny), or “himbo” (a male bimbo): pun-based, but perfectly functional, descriptive words.

Someone mentioned “Spy Hard.” This is a pun title, of course (based on “Die Hard”), but it’s also something very, very rare: It’s a pun title on a movie that actually warrants a pun title.

The reason most pun titles sound stupid to me is that they don’t sound like real titles. They sound like MAD Magazine parody titles. Like if there were a film called “Bed & Breakfast,” MAD might call its version “Dead & Breakfast.” You know what I mean?

But “Spy Hard” actually IS a parody. It’s the equivalent of a MAD Magazine movie satire, so it’s completely appropriate that it would have a spoof-sounding title. I seem to recall the movie itself wasn’t all that great, but at least they had the right idea when they named it.

In that vein, let us also recall that most Bugs Bunny cartoons had pun titles, too: “Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow,” “What’s Opera, Doc?,” etc. And they fit because the cartoons were wacky and satirical.

Finally, I’ll just point out that the place you see the most pun titles is in the pornographic variants of popular films. No you MAY NOT post your favorites, but you know the ones I mean. “The Porn Identity.” “Brokeback Mountin’.” “Bi-tanic.” The fact that the porn industry indulges in the practice of punning should probably be reason enough for everyone else to avoid it.

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