Some of my favorite Hollywood movies when I was a kid were Dad Forever, My Poor Little Angel, and S.O.S. There's a Crazy Man Loose in Space. What's that? You've never heard of these films? Well, that's because I grew up in a Spanish-speaking country, and the titles I just mentioned are the ones we got for Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone, and Spaceballs, respectively.
Mind you, we have words for "home" and "alone" (and "space" and "balls") in Spanish -- it's just that whichever mid-level employee was in charge of translating these titles said, "No, no. This is better. We can help this movie. We can improve it." This happens all over the world, and to me the weirdest examples aren't the completely random ones, like Hong Kong turning As Good as It Gets into Mr. Cat Poop (or so claims the Chicago Tribune), but the ones where there actually is a hidden logic or trend behind all of that country's titles. For instance ...
#5. All Comedies Must Be Sequels to Other Comedies (Even When They Aren't)
I have no idea how this is possible, but at some point in the early '80s multiple countries got together and decided that, from that point onward, they would rename future Hollywood comedies based on how they translated the title of the film Airplane! -- seriously. This is a real phenomenon, and I can't think of an explanation that doesn't involve a massive international conspiracy. For instance, in Latin America, Airplane! was called So Where's the Pilot? ...
"How could they possibly know it's a comedy if we don't give it a wacky title?"
... which was followed up by Leslie Nielsen's So Where's the Cop?, So Where's the Cop? 2 1/2, and So Where's the Cop? 33 1/3.
In fact, pretty much every Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker movie starts with So Where's the ... except Hot Shots! and the masterpiece that is Hot Shots! Part Deux, which were renamed Crazy Pilot Academy 1 and 2. You know, after the Crazy Police Academy series.
On the other hand, even movies that had nothing to do with the ZAZ team or Leslie Nielsen started wondering where someone was in their titles -- a tradition that continues to this day with movies like So Where Are the Blondes? and So Where's the Ghost? starring the Wayans brothers.
That's fucking weird, right? But it's just the beginning. In Finland, Airplane! was Hey, We're Flying ...
Uh, OK, sure. Why not?
... so then they got stuff like Hey, We're Rocking (This Is Spinal Tap), Hey, Who's Talking (Look Who's Talking), and Hey, We're Doin' Time (Doin' Time).
In Norway, Airplane! was Help, We're Flying, which means This Is Spinal Tap was Help, We're in the Pop Industry, and the entire National Lampoon's Vacation saga was variations of Help, We're on Vacation. And so on -- the same thing happens in France, Israel, Spain, and Germany with different titles, but they can all be traced back to how they named Airplane! 30 years ago.
Of course, some countries dare to break the mold and go with other, arguably more insane comedy naming rules. Like Sweden, which renamed Mel Brooks' The Producers Springtime for Hitler way back in 1968 ...
This was the marketable part of the movie for them. The Hitler part.
... so they've been naming every Mel Brooks movie Springtime for Something ever since.
And finally, Caddyshack in Denmark was An Assload of Cash, for some reason, so throughout the '80s they felt the obligation to work the word "ass" into the titles of most Bill Murray comedies. Look for the "roven":
#4. In Germany, All Monster Movies Are About Frankenstein
For a while, German movie distributors were obsessed with pretending that all Japanese monster movies were about Frankenstein, even if Frankenstein didn't appear anywhere in them, and German audiences just let them get away with it. Granted, this isn't the most outrageous thing the German people have gone along with, but I still think it's pretty bizarre.
Take, for instance, the movie that was released in the U.S. as Destroy All Monsters, which is about Godzilla coming across all of the monsters and destroying them. In most countries it had a title that conveyed those themes, but in Germany, it was Frankenstein and the Monsters from Space.
Frankenstein is piloting that plane, presumably.
Son of Godzilla? No, that's called Frankenstein's Monster Hunts Godzilla's Son. Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster? Oh, you mean Frankenstein and the Monster from the Sea. And so on: Germany couldn't conceive of a movie starring a guy in a rubber suit stomping on a cardboard city if it didn't have "Frankenstein" somewhere in its title.
In a shoddy attempt to cover up the transparent deception, Germany would add new lines of dialogue to all these movies mentioning that the monsters were the creation of Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Yes, at some point the (by then 150-year-old) scientist moved on from simply reanimating stitched-together hunks of meat to creating skyscraper-size reptiles and killer robots.
And this wasn't limited to Godzilla movies: Gamera vs. Monster X was Frankenstein's Demon Threatens the World, and King Kong Escapes was -- well, I think you can make out the title from this poster:
The mother was an armored truck.
Speaking of King Kong, around this time Italy developed a similar obsession with the lovable ape and started doing the same thing. Destroy All Monsters for them was renamed The Heirs of King Kong, and Terror of Godzilla became Destroy Kong! Earth Is in Danger -- but unlike those half-assed Germans, the Italians actually went through the trouble of adding King Kong to the posters ...
... of movies that, once again, he didn't even appear in. I don't know how they justified that, but I'm guessing that every once in a while they added shots of some guy saying, "Hey, look over there! That's totally King Kong wrecking some shit! Mamma mia!"
However, Spain still wins by somehow turning Godzilla vs. Megalon into Gorgo and Superman Have a Date in Tokyo. I mean, that's a translator with balls.
In the U.S., this was remade as My Dinner With Andre.
#3. France Has to Add Sex to Everything
The stereotype says that everyone in France is a horny bastard who only thinks about sex (and eating croissants, but I'm pretty sure that also counts as thinking about sex, technically). Obviously, that's not true. There are plenty of normal, well-adjusted people in France who think about sex only when relevant or necessary. The ones who translate movie titles are not in that group.
For instance, look at No Strings Attached, an Ashton Kutcher/Natalie Portman film that was originally titled Friends With Benefits but had to change its name because there was another movie in the "romantic comedy about attractive friends who have casual sex and fall in love and starring a former cast member of That '70s Show" category coming out in early 2011. The French version completely bypassed the controversy by going with a slightly more direct title:
Yeah, the French know the English word "friends." They own TVs.
That's not a Photoshop, by the way -- the French name for that movie is seriously a different English name but with the word "sex" in it. This isn't a new thing: remember the 2006 Channing Tatum dance epic Step Up? You might if you'd seen it advertised under the hornier French title:
Sexy Dance. Again, in English -- not Le Danse Sensuelle or whatever, but Sexy Dance, and they actually stuck with the stupid name for the other installments.
And speaking of shit movies with a horrifying number of sequels, in the late '90s France felt frustrated by the subtlety in the title for Cruel Intentions, that film about Buffy the Vampire Slayer dongteasing Ryan Phillippe for 97 minutes. As a result, for the following decade Blockbuster stores around the country ended up decorated with copies of ... Sexe Intentions 1, 2, and 3.
The third got its own sexe font.
This one's in French, but just barely: I'm told that for French people, the phrase "sexe intentions" sounds like "genitalia purposes." This is even more baffling when you consider that Cruel Intentions was based on a French novel called Les Liaisons Dangereuses in the first place, but at least Sexe Intentions is a name that bears some connection to the plot. For Not Another Teen Movie, however, they just threw their hands in the air and went with Sex Academy.
"Eh, fuck it. Wait, can we call it that instead?"
To be fair, the movie is set in a high school, and in France those are all legally classified as sex academies.