Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 18 April 2005
Source Warner Bros. DVD
For a brief period of time in 1988, Yahoo Serious was poised to become Australia’s most lucrative filmic export. Credited multiply in each of his films (as director, writer, actor, and producer), Yahoo is a veritable Jacques Tati, but with none of the subtlety. And similar to his French counterpart, Serious’ unpopular later films (1993’s Reckless Kelly and 2000’s Mr. Accident) have filed the risk in his investments, enabling his status as a relic of pop culture.
His debut, Young Einstein, became an unexpected hit, garnering him international acclaim and in turn the cover of Time Magazine. Fame seemed destined for the wild-eyed, daringly fashionable young man with an ever-unkempt shock of hair. The latter trait would be the most distinct correlation between Yahoo and the scientist he very loosely portrays in this film; there is virtually no other link between the character and his source. In the film, Albert Einstein coins the theory of relativity, but it is transplanted in his experiments with beer. His first success results in a minor atomic explosion at his home in Tasmania. He approaches his father, his skin black in ash, with the first beer with froth. His father drinks the elixir, and nods at the young prodigy in approval.
This first trial is a catalyst for the more excessive liberties this distant biography will impose. Einstein’s knowledge leads him to Paris, where he aims to patent his discovery. Unkempt and with no training in etiquette, he is ridiculed, and his formula is stolen. Meanwhile, Einstein develops an interest in music, invents Rock and Roll, and woos a sexy Marie Curie. Somehow, all of Einstein’s ridiculous principles must conspire for him to stop an atomic bomb at the film’s end, which he attempts to do by plugging in a very souped-up electric guitar to a beer keg.
It is obvious Young Einstein is a mashed-potatoes lesson in history, and for all of its feeble inspirations, it’s moderately enjoyable. It’s Bill and Ted without Rufus: dumb, yet entertaining. Yahoo has an idiosyncratic craft—like Tati, he is playing himself—yet despite his once prodigious filmmaking, his career may be a testament that seclusion is the price of vanity, given the exclusive popularity of his work in his native country.