John Travolta in Wild HogsThe first time I heard about the movie Wild Hogs, I thought it might be about ... I dunno, a farm or something. Porcine invaders, run rampant! Farmers in peril! But no, it's actually about a bunch of middle-aged suburban guys who buy motorcycles (get it? hogs?) and hit the road seeking adventure. Waaait a second! This movie has nothing to do with pigs! I felt cheated, enlightened, confused and impressed. More or less.

Which got me thinking (always a dangerous prospect) about what other movies cleverly have animals in the titles ... but aren't about animals at all. There are tons, as it turns out. It's almost like a trend. For example, I'll be seeing a movie next week called Eagle vs. Shark, but it's not about an interspecies showdown; it's about two awkward misfits who fall in love (after dressing up in animal costumes). Here are some more:

Christina Ricci in Black Snake MoanBlack Snake Moan
What It's Not About: A cobra in pain
What It Is About: A blues musician who attempts to "cure" a nymphomaniac of her sexual urges
What Does the Animal Represent? I've seen this movie, and I still have no idea. Maybe the nymphomania?

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
What It's Not About: A tabby trapped on top of a house ... in the summer
What It Is About: A Southern family in crisis
What Does the Animal Represent? Maggie "The Cat" Pollitt (Elizabeth Taylor), who tells her neglectful husband, "You know what I feel like? I feel all the time like a cat on a hot tin roof." (Ever the romantic, he replies, "Then jump off the roof, Maggie. Jump off it.")

p>Raging Bull
What It's Not About: The running of the bulls in Pamplona, from the bull's point of view
What It Is About: The rise and fall of boxer Jake LaMotta
What Does the Animal Represent? LaMotta. He's an angry guy.

The Squid and the WhaleThe Squid and the Whale
What It's Not About: An unlikely under-the-sea romance
What It Is About: A dysfunctional family living in Brooklyn
What Does the Animal Represent? The exhibit of a giant squid fighting a whale at the American Museum of Natural History (so yes, this one does have animals in it -- but not until the very last scene. Plus they're dead.)

The Pink Panther (1963)
What It's Not About: A wildcat with fabulous fashion sense
What It Is About: A bumbling French detective in search of a notorious jewel thief
What Does the Animal Represent? A valuable diamond with a flaw that resembles a leaping (pink) panther

What It's Not About: A day in the life of Babar
What It Is About: Two students go on a shooting spree at an Oregon high school
What Does the Animal Represent? Gus Van Sant took the title from a British film about violence in Northern Ireland, by director Alan Clarke -- who in term was alluding to the phrase "elephant in the room," i.e., a problem no one wants to talk about.

12 Monkeys
What It's Not About: A bunch of simians serving on jury duty. Or banging away on typewriters.
What It Is About: A convict, hoping to earn parole, who travels back in time to 1990 to stop a devastating plague
What Does the Animal Represent? A mysterious animal rights group called The Army of the Twelve Monkeys, which is wrongly accused of terrorism

Well, I don't want to have all the fun. Now it's your turn -- below are more animal titles that (psyche!) aren't actually about animals. What does it sound like they're about? And can you think of any others?

Along Came a Spider
Alpha Dog
Big Fish
Black Hawk Down
Buffalo '66
Buffalo Soldiers
Bye Bye Birdie
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Dog Day Afternoon
Dogs in the Yard
Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai
Iron Eagle
Passion Fish
Rumble Fish
The Cat's Meow
The Lion in Winter
The Truth About Cats and Dogs
Wag the Dog
What's New, Pussycat?
Wild Tigers I Have Known
Wings of the Dove

categories Features, Cinematical