Are movies with pun titles always awful?

Titular wordplay is usually a sure-fire sign a film will be terrible... but there are exceptions

This week sees the cinematic release of 'Piranha 3DD' – a trashy 3D horror movie that can't wait to tell you the size of the breasts awaiting within. The pun says it all, really: wordplay in a movie title is a sure-fire indicator that Oscars are not the ultimate goal (David Hasselhoff on the cast list is also a dead giveaway).

Oscar contender?... Piranha 3DDSurely not all movies with puns in the title are terrible? We don our lab coat and important spectacles to find out.

The movie: 'Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked' (2011)

Any good? See what they did there? It's almost too clever. The creators of this third Alvin And The Chipmunks movie have substituted the 'S' in 'Shipwrecked' with a 'C' via a playful wink and a nudge, thereby changing its meaning. Never mind that Alvin, Simon and Theodore are actually more marooned than they are shipwrecked – who cares when the punnery is this sparkling? The movie's a Titanic-level disaster, obviously – you can tell that the writers came up with the crummy title before they did the plot. Anyway, it sucks in comparison to Part II: 'The Squeakquel'. We hope someone got a raise for that one.

Disaster movies... Chipwrecked and Shanghai Noon

The movie: 'Shanghai Noon' (2000)

Any good? Does this movie actually exist? Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in a martial arts action comedy? It seems more like a parody of a movie than a real film. The pun in the title is not immediately noticeable – it's a play on 'High Noon' (a movie with which it has nothing in common, other than Western leanings) with a nod towards Chan's Eastern heritage. It's without a doubt the best martial arts action comedy Owen Wilson has ever made (definitely better than sequel 'Shanghai Knights') but you shouldn't get too excited about any movie from the director of 'Marmaduke'.

[Related feature: The movie sequels nobody asked for]
[Competition: Win a place at our meet and greet with Will Smith AND Josh Brolin next week!]

The movie: 'Austin Powers In... Goldmember' (2002)

Any good? By far the weakest of the Austin Powers movies, at this point Mike Myers had run out of sixties stereotypes to spoof so made the villain a Dutch rollerblading enthusiast who eats his own flaky skin – cuh, there's one in every office, right? For further proof that particular comedic well had run dry, look again at that dreadful title – a barely-there pun on James Bond's 'Goldfinger'. At least 'The Spy Who Shagged Me' raised a giggle – 'Goldmember' is so nonsensical that they had to give the villain a solid gold penis to make it work. For ‘Austin Powers 4’, may we suggest: 'For Your Thighs Only'.

Not all comedy gold... Austin Powers and Gnomeo & Juliet

The movie: 'Gnomeo & Juliet' (2011)

Any good?
Depends how old you are, really – under 8s and over 80s will probably love it. It's another one of those movies that you can guarantee was written from the title up (either that, or someone had an absolute stormer during a pitch meeting for 'The Garden Gnomes That Loved Each Other'). 'Gnomeo & Juliet' is at least moderately faithful to Shakespeare's emo-iest romance – as faithful as an animated movie about plaster-based characters starring the voice talents of Jason Statham, Hulk Hogan and Ozzy Osborne can be, anyway. But we're not sure the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle will be too happy with the forthcoming sequel, 'Sherlock Gnomes'. Ouch.

The movie: 'Knight And Day' (2010)

Any good? The combined efforts of ten different writers and countless drafts, 'Knight And Day' ended up being totally forgettable and the lowest-grossing Tom Cruise action movie in 20 years. We can't level the movie's failure directly at the naff title – the work of Fox executive and renowned creative genius Tom Rothman – but... well, it's an easy target. Not only does it make precious little sense in relation to the plot of the movie, it's by far the lamest of all of the planned titles; at various points, the film was known by the names 'Wichita', 'Trouble Man' and 'All New Enemies', all of which would have been preferable. The movie's Smug Factor of 50+ probably didn't help matters either.

Flop factor... Knight and Day and Cop Out



The movie: 'Cop Out' (2010)

Any good? Terrible, by all accounts – probably the worst film of Kevin Smith's career, and far from Bruce Willis' finest moment, either (the only good thing that came of it was Smith calling his star "a big, stupid jerk" in his latest book). But that title? There's a chance that it's a work of subversive genius. The original working title was 'A Couple Of Dicks' ('dicks' being police slang for 'detectives'). Deemed too risque by the studio, the family-friendly title suggested was 'A Couple Of Cops' – the comedic equivalent of tumbleweed. Smith, enraged by studio meddling, plumped for 'Cop Out' – a fairly transparent apology to fans expecting his usual potty mouth.

The movie: 'The Santa Clause' (1994)

Any good? If the sound of jingling bells gives you the fear, 'The Santa Clause' probably isn't going to be your thing – it's more Christmassy than Jesus, Father Christmas and Rudolph eating turkey and watching the Queen's speech. Whatever your feelings towards the festive season and the films it inspires, you can't deny the title pun's effectiveness. The plot sees Tim Allen kill Santa (accidentally, we might add) to discover that once he dons the red suit, a hidden 'clause' commits him to the role of Kris Kringle permanently. It sounds like a 'Twilight Zone' episode, but it's marginally more horrifying to watch.

Contract killer... The Santa Clause and Gingerdead Man

The movie: 'The Gingerdead Man' (2005)

Any good?
Who cares? It's called THE GINGERDEAD MAN. Plot matters not when you have a title as amazing as that. Any potential buyers/renters would be under no illusion as to its quality from just one glance at the front cover – the fact that it stars Gary Busey as a convinced killer reborn as a confectionery treat is just a bonus. It's only bettered by its own DVD sequels, sadly denied the mass IMAX release their titles deserve: 'The Gingerdead Man 2: Passion Of The Crust' and 'The Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver'.

Bloody brilliant... Shaun Of The Dead

The movie: 'Shaun Of The Dead' (2004)

Any good? We have a winner! 'Shaun Of The Dead' is one of those rare films where the title gag fits the subject material perfectly – it's the same premise as 'Dawn Of The Dead', but with a quaint British twist that instantly informs you it's a comedy. Though a sequel will never happen (Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have said as much), we'd like to think they'd have gone in a different direction for a follow-up and gone for 'From Dusk Till Shaun'.