As a Portuguese fan of comedy, I’ve been plagued by ludicrous translations of American movie titles. Thing do tend to get lost in translation all my life. After all, we’re talking about a country that named Animal House something along the lines of The Cuckoo Fraternity. Great title, huh? In recent years, I’ve come across a trend which seems to afflict mostly Judd Apatow-related movies. Bridesmaids is coming out here in July and they’ve called it The Best Bachelorette Party, which isn’t good, but it isn’t infuriating either (a testament to Paul Feig’s greatness?). But other movies involving Judd haven’t been as lucky. It seems that someone working in film distribution in Portugal really hates Judd Apatow’s guts.
Moviegoers don’t flock to theaters to go see his movies — at least not in the way they should, even though they seem to catch on a few years later on DVD or TV — but that’s not Judd’s fault. No, it’s the translators’ fault. The pairing of appallingly translated titles and stupid marketing campaigns is a surefire way of making sure intelligent people don’t casually show up to see his films. Maybe distributors think there’s no difference whatsoever between Meet the Spartans and Knocked Up. For them, only kids will want to see comedies (not your inner kid, but actual children). If this comes across as an exaggeration, here are the top ten worst Judd-related translations, clearly made by people who didn’t even bother to either watch the movies or read about them.
10. Drillbit Taylor, 2008 (produced by)
Portuguese Title: Second-Rate Bodyguard (Guarda-Costas de Segunda)
Really? A second-rate The Bodyguard? How bad does a movie have to be to come up short against anything starring Kevin Costner?
09. Knocked Up, 2007 (written, produced and directed by)
Portuguese Title: A Huge Bummer (Um Azar do Caraças)
There’s no literal retranslation to this title, it could also be “a case of freaking bad luck” or something like that. Do you know how they always say Judd Apatow’s protagonists are men-children? Title translators make these men even more childlike, irresponsible and slacker-like than they are in the actual movies (which is really hard to do, by the way, and should be commended).
08. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, 2004 (produced by)
Portuguese Title: The Reporter: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (O Repórter: A Lenda de Ron Burgundy)
In just seven words, they managed to change the main character’s profession. Ron Burgundy was, as the original title indicates, an anchorman who sits in a studio, not a reporter on the field. Sometimes studios give notes on scripts and rough edits of movies to make them more marketable. Here we have a different approach: distributors simply change movie titles while the movie remains the same. It’s called “professionalism,” world, learn it. It paid off, as well: the movie went straight to DVD.
07. Funny People, 2009 (written, produced and directed by)
Portuguese Title: Cute People (Gente Gira)
Aw…they’re so cute, aren’t they? In all fairness, the Portuguese word for “cute” can also be used — but not often — for describing “funny” things, and this particular title was used as the name of a bunch of racist South African hidden camera movies in the 1980s (also called Funny People in certain parts of the world). But to use “cute” to describe the people in the only movie directed by Judd Apatow that doesn’t feature Paul Rudd is kind of a missed opportunity, isn’t it?
06. Fun with Dick & Jane, 2005 (written and produced by)
Portuguese Title: Dick and Jane – Incompetent Thieves (Dick e Jane – Ladrões Sem Jeito)
Portuguese translators love adding new depths and perspectives to characters and meanings of movies. It’s one of their favorite activities. Aren’t Dick and Jane actually good at robbing banks and such in the actual film? Not in this title. They’re incompetent, in a fun and funny way.
05. Kicking & Screaming, 2005 (produced by)
Portuguese Title: A Genius Coach (Um Treinador Genial)
Get it? It’s an A Beautiful Mind-style uplifting drama about an exceptionally intelligent soccer coach who, despite being plagued by mental problems, still manages to take his underdog team to the World Cup. Either that or it’s a passable comedy for kids starring Will Ferrell and Robert Duvall. Very weirdly, this title isn’t geared towards children, contrary to what happens to more adult-themed Judd Apatow productions.
04. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, 2007 (produced by)
Portuguese Title: Ricky Bobby’s Crazy Races (As Corridas Loucas de Ricky Bobby)
What I gather from the title is this: Ricky Bobby is a loose cannon and he races in a very very crazy way, sort of like an amalgamation of every character in Cannonball Run, which this movie was clearly based on. He’s crazy! He races! He does crazy races! This is a very wacky movie!
03. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, 2008 (produced by)
Portuguese Title: A Nice Pair of…Rollerskates (Um Belo Par de…Patins)
Surprise, as we know, always makes for great comedy. You think someone’s going in one way, but they go in another, unexpected way and that’s what makes you laugh. Classic comedic resource. Just like this title. You read the first part of the title and immediately expect them to finish with something like “tits” or “balls.” Only they don’t. They say “rollerskates”. What a (hilarious) letdown. It’s a somewhat unclear name, but “a pair of rollerskates” probably refers to the Portuguese expression “giving someone a pair of rollerskates”, which means dumping them, but I had to go check its meaning with friends, so it’s not like the expression has entered our vocabulary in such a way that doesn’t make it sound, well, moronic.
02. Get Him to the Greek, (produced by)
Portuguese Title: It’s a Lot of Rock, Dude! (É muito rock, meu!)
Because there was no indication whatsoever in the posters and marketing that the movie was in any way related to rock’n’roll, the distributors opted to hammer us with the idea in the title itself. See, the movie is wacky! There’s an exclamation point at the end of the title, for Keith Richards’s sake! The title ends in “meu!”, which is almost similar to “dude!” or “man!”, except it’s used by a much younger crowd. This expression seems to have been put there to make sure that no self-respecting adult ever watches the movie. And yeah, in case you’re wondering, no Portuguese-speaking person in the world has ever uttered the phrase “it’s a lot of rock, man!” in a casual conversation
01. Superbad, 2008 (produced by)
Portuguese Title: Superguys Who Play Hooky (Superbaldas)
This one is the single greatest translation ever. Remember how Superbad was a movie about kids who cut class all the time? Me neither, but the tagline of the marketing campaign that promoted this movie here was something like: “Are you going to class or are you skipping it?” I guess I must have missed the part where someone doesn’t go to class in the movie, because I can’t remember a single instance where people, faced with the option of going to class or skipping it, chose the latter. Maybe that’s why I saw it in a theater with less than ten people in the room. I think I remember all of them being kids. Maybe they were cutting class, influenced by the protagonists of the movie. Therefore, Judd Apatow is corrupting our youth.
Look, I know I’m not the best translator in the world and even some of my retranslations of these titles could be a lot better. But I also know that if I lived in a vacuum and made all my moviegoing decisions based solely on marketing campaigns and movie titles, I wouldn’t even give a chance to anything Judd Apatow’s ever been involved in. I’m sure that’s what happens to many of my fellow countrymen who end up thinking that The 40-Year Old Virgin and Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son are exactly the same movie because they’re sold in a similar way. Don’t get me wrong, Martin Lawrence and Steve Carell are essentially the same person, but there are huge differences between the two movies. Namely, that one of the movies involves fatsuits and the other doesn’t (unless the fact that Seth Rogen lost a lot of weight counts as him wearing a fatsuit in The 40-Year Old Virgin, which it doesn’t).
Rodrigo Nogueira can make fat jokes because he used to weigh 250 pounds and lost 84 of them.