A chap called Yahoo Serious wrote, produced, directed and starred in this Australian spoof biography of Albert Einstein – a naive wild-haired Tasmanian scientist who invents rock ‘n’ roll (to impress Marie Curie) and successfully splits the beer atom and is then sent to the Australian mainland to make his family’s fortune from the breakthrough.
As he develops a series of bizarre inventions – he also creates the world’s first surfboard and invents the electric guitar – he falls foul of a jealous rival who plans to exploit his genius for profit.
While Yahoo – who changed his real name, Greg Pead, by deed poll after a three-day binge while at art college – tries his best to be as moronic and nerdy as is ‘coolly’ possible, Pee Wee Herman he is not. He has little comic agility or forcefulness, his acting is rather leaden, and he depends on physical awkwardness for his laughs.
Young Einstein is clearly the work of an inexperienced filmmaker who hit on a goofball idea and ran with it. But lots of energy and colour almost cover up the lack of any substantial jokes, and it’s not bad for a one-man effort from down-under.
Young Einstein is crowded with sight gags: it features explosions, rock songs, balloon flights, breakdancing, a dog that turns out to be Darwin’s Beagle, a hotel in Lonely Street, a host of quick, sly references to recent Australian movies and a pie with live kittens as its filling.
The film was savaged by US critics when it opened in the States – calling it “haphazard”, “dull”, and “dumb” – which was a serious blow to Serious, whose backers spent $10 million promoting the film in Australia – $4 million more than the movie cost to make. It was a big box office hit Down Under, as could be expected.
Though the film was set in Tasmania, no filming took place in the apple isle. The ‘Tasmanian’ locations were filmed at Wollombi, near Cessnock in New South Wales, while the period Sydney streets were shot in Newcastle.
Odile Le Clezio
Pee Wee Wilson