Young Einstein (1988)

young einstein

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: The first rock star.

Forget all those things that you’ve read in the history books because they’re all wrong. Albert Einstein was never born in Germany instead he was the son of an apple farmer in Tasmania who grew up to not only invent the theory of relativity, but also rock ‘n’ roll, the electric guitar, bubbles in beer and even surfing. He also had a bad haircut that looked just like Carrot Top’s.

The term one-hit-wonder gets used a lot in the music business to describe a band or singer that comes out of nowhere, gets a chart topping hit and then proceeds back to obscurity. Normally it’s never used in movie jargon, but if it was this would be a perfect example. Writer/director/star/composer Yahoo Serious, whose birth name was Greg Pead until he had it legally changed in 1980, seemed to be the next creative prodigy when he concocted this thing after spending years making educational documentaries. It was a huge success in Australia, which was enough to get Warner Brothers to pick it up as they thought they had another Crocodile Dundee on their hands and spent $8 million promoting it only for it to fail dismally at the box office and in effect so did Serious’ career as he has not made a movie, or even been in one since 2000.

To some extent I was initially surprised at how well directed it was and how Serious showed an astute eye for detail. I loved how he captured the majestic Australian landscape and the music score is quite distinctive and cool. The humor is funny, but mostly when it involves a visual device that has nothing to do with the action. For instance there is a homeless man in one scene carrying a sign stating ‘The end is near’, but instead of spelling ‘near’ in the conventional way it gets spelled as ‘nigh’ to replicate his Aussie accent.

Unfortunately the comedy stays too much at an innocuous level, which is why I believe it didn’t catch on here, or become a cult hit despite its potential. Everything is geared exclusively to a preteen audience, who may love it, but for it to appeal to adults or a more discriminating viewer it needed to have a darker edge, or some attempts at satire instead of just complete, non-stop silliness.

Serious is only so-so as the lead. He certainly does have the chiseled, boyish good looks that could make the young teen girls swoon, but he had too much of a laid-back, mellow persona and seemingly unable to convey any other type of emotion. His radical, punk-like hairstyle starts to become a distraction to the point where you find yourself looking at it even when you don’t want to.

Originally the script was called ‘The Great Galute’ and was a story about some ordinary fella who invented the electric guitar and the Einstein angle was only added in after Serious took a boat ride down the Amazon and noticed a kid wearing an Albert Einstein T-shirt. In a lot ways the film would’ve been better had it stayed with its initial concept as it’s a bit disrespectful to the actual person and it’s never even remotely funny that this guy with a perpetual surfer dude mentality could’ve really been a super genius.

The ridiculous plot proceeds to get dumber as it goes along until it becomes just downright embarrassing by the end. The romantic side-story and the film’s villain (John Howard) are pointless, boring additions that add nothing and should’ve been scrapped. The film would’ve been more successful had it done away with a conventional narrative completely and instead taken the Jacques Tati approach where all emphasis was placed on visual non-sequiturs as this was the only time that I found the film to be even slightly engaging.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: December 15, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Yahoo Serious

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

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