Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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New Sensation: The High-Concept Title

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 27, 2007

Are you ready for one?

I can’t remember exactly how I came across it, but I was doing some Wikipedia browsing the other day when I came across an entry for an intriguing-looking upcoming 2007 release. I think I found it because I was looking at Topher Grace’s page (whose real name is apparently Christopher, and he just dropped the Chris part–I never would’ve guessed), and saw that he was going to be in the movie. It stars him as William Cox (bold because this becomes key later), and the only plot description thusfar given is that he meets the girl of his dreams, but has to fend off advances from her ex-boyfriend (played by Sean William Scott) who wants to get back with her. Relatively nothing plot–even sounds a little like Win a Date With Tad Hamilton–but you haven’t heard the real sell yet. The title of this movie is going to be–wait for it–


That’s right, Coxblocker. This isn’t the working title or anything, this is what they are actually planning on calling the movie. And given the plot, the not-exactly-box-office-dynamite appeal of the stars, and the direction courtesy of Sorority Boys and Employee of the Month scribe Greg Coolidge, it looks like MTV films are really banking on that title being enough of a draw. Thus giving birth to (or at least cementing) a new phenomenon in crass, commercial filmmaking: The High-Concept Title.

Now, the idea of the High Concept Film is one that’s been around for a few decades now. In case you’re not familiar with the term, the High Concept Film essentially means the exact opposite of what it should mean, unless you’re using the term “high” with the non-traditional meaning–basically, it refers to a movie whose entirety could be summed up in one sentence. Famous examples include Speed (“bomb on bus”), Home Alone (“kid defends house from burglars”) and Phone Booth (“Moralistic sniper pins asshole to titular location”), among many others. The plot, characters, themes and direction are all as simple and basic as humanly possible, all in servitude of the greater good of the High Concept.

Though the term wasn’t invented until the 70s, the idea of the high-concept film has been around for about as long as film (King Kong = “ape runs amok in New York,” Bringing Up Baby = “straight guy’s life disrupted by wacky chick,” etc.) But now we’ve got something new–now movies aren’t just being sold on the strength of their one-sentence concept, they’re being sold on the strength of their (one-word!) titles.

The advent of this phenomenon could easily be seen as descending from the great sensation-that-almost was, Snakes on a Plane. SOAP was something of a transition film between the High-Concept Film and the High-Concept Title–the film was easily describable in one sentence, but it marked one of the first times (and the most widely discussed time) that that one-sentence summary was actually used for the film’s title. Even Freddy vs. Jason and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan seemed shrouded in metaphor by comparison.

Now it’s possible (though unlikely) that Coxblocker could have gotten filmed even without that title, but think of it this way–what the hell are the odds that MTV had the film–plot, characters, director and all–in motion, and then, in a moment of unspeakable clarity, decided to name it Coxblocker? Could the film industry ever actually be that serendipitious? I gotta remain skeptical on this one.

So what’s next? Pitch me your high-concept titles here before Hollywood gets to ’em. Save the film industry from itself, one undercooked idea at a time.

3 Responses to “New Sensation: The High-Concept Title”

  1. brace said

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