Just to let you know that I do have some criteria for this. Bond character names are excluded because they’re supposed to be silly, and I’ve limited myself to one George Lucas Star Wars name because I’d otherwise be here all night. With those in mind, here we go.
10. Strip, played by John Travolta in Moment by Moment.
Yes. His name is Strip. That’s what the credits say, and if you can’t believe the credits, who can you believe? As a bonus, this movie requires Lily Tomlin to say to Travolta, “Oh, Strip”, during moments of simulated intimacy. Given how lunkheaded his character is, audience is excused for expecting him to reply, “But I’m already nude.”
9. Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. Played by Barry Pepper in Battlefield Earth.
One of the rules a writer should follow in naming his characters is not to give the poor sap anything that’s too on the nose. No Stan Jerkass McGee, or Tommy WillLetYouBorrowHisCarIfYouBringItBackWithaFullTank Jones. L. Ron Hubbard broke this rule; though, admittedly, that’s not his worst infraction as a human being. Audiences giggled, and not just because the movie was one of the most spectacular failures in the Primitive People With Suspiciously Good Teeth and Hair genre.
8. Yor. Played by Reb Brown in Yor, the Hunter From the Future
Speaking of the Primitive People With Suspiciously Good Teeth and Hair genre, here’s one of its most famous denizens: Yor. If this blog post is being read to you, you’re about to say, “My what?” Exactly. Imagine spending the whole movie doing this every time the protagonist’s name is spoken, and you begin to understand the nature of the problem. Fortunately, his friends weren’t named “Mai” and “Hurs”
7. Ator. Played by Miles O’Keeffe in Cave Dwellers, among other movies.
The A is short in this name, which can make it sound a bit like a sneeze. I have no doubt Miles O’Keeffe sharpened his well-renowned sense of humor by wearing this name through four bad sword and sorcery epics.
6. Cole Trickle. Played by Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder.
NASCAR fans are no doubt aware of the even-more-absurdly named Dick Trickle, who spun wheels on the circuit for many years to the delight of racing and double entendre fans everywhere. (He took his own life earlier this year. I don’t want to bring this list down, but he did and I thought I should mention it.) So I guess Don Simpson, Days of Thunder‘s producer, decided to saddle Tom Cruise with this almost-the-same moniker as a kind of tribute. This is proof that movie making decisions are best not made while on week-long blow and hookers benders.
5. Critter Jones. Played by Jody Daniels in Girl in Gold Boots.
It could have been worse. The original script called for him to be named Plague Rat Jones.
4. Vince Rommel. Played by Ross Hagen in Sidehackers.
But he is a magnificent bastard.
It’s a tricky thing to name your character after a famous personage. Sometimes it works. Napoleon Solo, Ian Fleming’s rather less famous creation, is an example of success. The name gives Solo the dash of his historical antecedent. But Vincent Rommel is another matter. Rommel was a cool tactician and expert in his field, qualities that his Sidehackers namesake never exhibits. It’s a poor fit that also inspires no end of jokes.
3. Pistachio Disguisey. played by Dana Carvey in Master of Disguise.
Dana Carvey is a funny man. His standup special on HBO was great. I loved him on SNL, and I enjoyed his work in the Wayne’s World pictures. It’s a shame that a heart condition combined with this awful film to cut his career short. The name of his character contains the DNA that explains why the picture tanked. All the movie’s desperation to extract giggles from an unfunny premise is encoded in the name’s seven syllables. If only he’d never done this picture. If only.
2. Jar Jar Binks. Played by Ahmed Best in Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III.
A joke started circulating shortly after Episode I opened. Its premise was that George Lucas had dreamed up the character names for his prequel series while drunk and curled up on the bathroom tile. Thus “Queen Amidala” and “Jar Jar Binks”. (If you say it while imitating a raggedy drunk, it’s funnier.) None of the characters in the prequels hold up well, but Jar Jar has become synecdoche for the entire prequel series, in which cutesy CG figures invade the frame, cavorting and gadding about, distracting us from our growing realization that these movies, in lieu of giving us something to wonder about, will spend over six hours answering questions we never asked.
1. Zap Rowsdower. Played by Bruce Mitchell in The Final Sacrifice.
This one I’ll turn over MST3K’s Mary Jo Pehl: “You know what? You lose me straight away when your movie’s protagonist is named ‘Zap Rowsdower’. The second I hear him identified as ‘Zap Rowsdower’ I am squeezing past you and climbing over your legs and muttering “excuse me” and I am getting the hell out of the movie. Only this time I couldn’t because I was at work and I’m hourly and I had used up all my vacation and sick time. How about Plink Holmgren? Or Pow Flowhauer?
“Just between you and me and the wall, I think a major error was made in their film archetypeology. Zap was clearly supposed to be the intermediary guy; the hard-drinking, tough-but-lovable, car-won’t-start sidekick to the hero.
“However, we were short one hero, and its not till the end of the movie that you realize that Troy and Zap’s journey isn’t to bring Troy to the hero (to whom Zap should be the sidekick), but in fact, Zap is the hero. Excuse me… sorry… can I just squeeze by you… watch your pop…”