Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top 5: Silly Movie Character Names

Some movie character names are deliberately silly.

Characters like President Merkin Muffley in Dr Strangelove, or Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights have silly names as this reflects the tone of the movie and is just part of the fun. Then there are movies where the silly names reflect the exotic nature of the setting; Han Solo in Star Wars say, or Brick Top in Snatch.

And then you have... the other ones.

Films where the character names are silly for no discernible reason. Or where the silly names are totally at odds with the otherwise serious tone. Or are sported by Nicholas Cage in any action film that he's made over the past ten years.

And it's this last category that today's list celebrates. A short tribute to these feverish and unwieldy creations:


portrayed by Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder.
This is the movie perhaps best remembered as the one where Nic met Tom, although this film is now so old that not only is their relationship history but both have completely reivented themselves since; rarely seen ice queen on the one hand, couch jumping nutcase on the other. In 1989, Cruise's religious beliefs and Oprah brain explosion were far in the future so, at this stage in his career, he was famous for portraying tough, rugged, outsider types in a series of blokey films. He flew planes, started fights, raced cars and smiled a lot. And what better way to convey a sense of earthy all American toughness than with a name like... Cole Trickle? At best, it's strangely lame, at worst it sounds like the kind of bedroom misfire that may have contributed to Tom and Nic's divorce. And no one wants to visualise that.


portrayed by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.
Criticism of Tarantino is difficult. For one thing, his legion of fans won't have it. And for another thing... his legion of fans really, REALLY won't have it. Their argument is simple, but forceful: 'How can you not like this film? There's a chick with a sword there! Don't you see her?' And, of course, every single frame is a homage to some film that you've never heard of, which appeals to a certain type of shut in. So you have to wonder what, or where, or who he is paying tribute to with the lead character's name in this; his wildly overpraised two parter featuring many chicks with swords and a partially thawed David Carradine. Beatrix Kiddo? He must be fucking Kiddo-ing.


portrayed by Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough.
Imagine a world where Denise Richards is a nuclear physicist. Better than that, imagine a world where Denise Richards is a nuclear physicist who looks about 18, gets about in hot pants and has exquisitely manicured hair even while working at a secret base in the desert. Imagining this is a bit like that moment in The Simpsons when Homer first considers a job at the nuclear power plant:

HOMER: Me? Work in a nuclear power plant? Ha ha, KABOOM!

Nevertheless, this scenario is what this tired Bond film offered to us and, having gone this far, the film makers really swung for the fences by calling her character, 'Dr Christmas.' It was about this time that the owners of the Bond franchise started looking about for new cast, crew and producers.


portrayed by Paul Giamatti in The Lady in the Water.
Also a candidate for a Top 5 list entitled: When Great Actors Inexplicably Appear in Shit Films. I mean, what is Giamatti doing in this? Was it for his kids? Some kind of tax thing? Watching this lame and daft movie makes you wonder if that time, not that long ago, when M. Night Shyamalan was considered something of a wunderkind wasn't just your imagination playing tricks. Each film he has made post Sixth Sense has been a little odder and little less popular than the one before it, culminating in this entirely bizarre misfire. As a rumpled janitor charged with trying to help a mysterious stranger enter a multi dimensional portal located, logically enough, in the cleaning filter of an apartment block swimming pool, Giamatti does his best. But his character name seems only to heap (zing!) insult onto considerable injury.


portrayed by Nicholas Cage in The Rock, Gone in 60 Seconds & Ghost Rider.
But when it comes to silly character names there's no one who can top Nicholas Cage, who started his life as Nicholas Coppola and won an Oscar portraying a character named 'Ben Sanderson,' before moving onto more adventurous lingustic endeavours. As well as the characters mentioned above (a chemical weapons analyst, car thief and motorcyclist/flaming skull respectively), in the last fifteen years Cage has also portrayed characters named; Glen Flothe, Behman von Bleiruck, Balthazar Blake, Zoc, Acid Yellow, Castor Troy and Cameron Poe. To the point where you wonder if this is the first thing he looks for in a script. Still, if this really was the way he's been picking his parts, at least that would explain some of the dodgy films he's been in lately. Very little else could rationally explain Drive Angry.

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