In 10 Words or Less
What if Einstein was an Australian beer carbonator? What? Huh?
I've seen two of Yahoo Serious' three films, which I think makes me eligible for dual citizenship in Australia. As a result, I have a great respect for his work, which I think is actually underrated. His Prince-like desire to control his creative endeavors means that only he and he alone can take the blame if his films don't work. Of course, ask most people, and after they ask "Who's Yahoo Serious?", they'll say all three of his films don't work. Now, I'm willing to admit that Ned Kelly is really only of interest to Aussies, and Mr. Accident is a bit too odd for it's own good, but Young Einstein is another story altogether.
Supposedly the story of Albert Einstein, the father of atomic energy and one of science history's most-recognized names, the film transplants the famous physicist from his native Germany to Australia, and replaces his scientific work with pioneering discoveries in the realms of beer bubbles and electric guitars. Though the story maintains his connection to the patent office, most everything else is fictionalized, including his electrified shock of red hair and the love story with Marie Curie.
Taking full advantage of the technique of montage, much of the film is built around sequences of music. I don't know if I've seen a non-musical with a higher montage-to-dialogue ratio. The ridiculously fun faux biography hangs on a skeleton of a plot involving a silent movie-worthy villain, Guglielmo Marconi, Charles Darwin and a beer bubble machine. Half the fun of the fun is picking out what's real scientific history and what's made up. One column will be quite loaded by the time you finish counting, but that's comedy.
The cast, mainly unknowns, does a good job with the goofy material, especially Serious, who is wholly likable as the star of the show, displaying the manchild characterization that Adam Sandler has perfected, only with some reins on. Odile Le Clezio, who brings a heavy French accent to the character of Marie Curie, has the same charm that Diane Franklin exhibited as a French foreign student in Better Off Dead. A love story was a risky bet in a film about a man full of child-like innocence. They can come across as too silly and tacked on, but here, it's given just enough focus to be recognized, but not overwhelming to the movie's silly nature.
Warner Brothers has released Young Einstein on one DVD, packaged in your average, everyday keepcase, but without an insert. The disc has a static, anamorphic widescreen main menu, with music from the film. The main menu features options to play the film, select scenes, view the theatrical trailer and change languages. The scene selection menus include still previews and titles, while language options include English and French soundtracks and English, French and Spanish subtitles. Closed captioning is also available.
Few people have ever seen Young Einstein in its original aspect ratio, since it's first theatrical release, which makes this anamorphic widescreen release truly welcome. Most of the movie looks very good, with vivid color, not much grain and a surprising level of detail. Unfortunately, dark scenes seem to be very soft, with a heavy increase in visible grain. They also seem to have more obvious dirt and scratches, though there are such troubles throughout the film. The scene where Einstein first sees his hotel room is almost VHS quality, but things clear up shortly.
The audio, presented in Dolby Surround Stereo, is excellent, with a good amount of separation between the dialogue and the music and ambient sound. The sound field is very deep for a stereo presentation, which seems to come from a better-than-average mix for a comedy. There's plenty of '80s-style rock, which all sounds great.
The only extra included is the film's theatrical trailer, a ridiculous hard-sell of "Australia's colossal comedy hit!" Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the preview is a bit grainy, and marred with dirt. It's also a ridiculous example of how far the art of trailers has advanced since 1988.
The Bottom Line
This is a silly film. There's no getting past that. But as a guilty pleasure, you could make worse choices. Sure, Yahoo Serious is something of a pop-culture joke now, but he deserves proper credit for the singular vision he showed in writing, directing, producing, editing and starring in Young Einstein. An oddly adorable movie, it's best enjoyed as a quirky foreign import, instead of a straight-forward comedy. Or perhaps as a souvenir of a time when America seemed entranced by the world Down Under. But it definitely can be enjoyed. The DVD is light on content outside of the film itself, but the presentation is quite good. Check it out if you've never seen it. For fans, it's an easy pick-up, considering the low price.