Gabby: The Indefinsibles switch their capes for lab coats, as we discuss…
Jeremy: Young Einstein. A biting Australian satire that asks, how do we sleep while our beer sheds are burning?
Brett: We’re all fans of montages, right? And movies that had to be reshot to extend the run time?
Jeremy: Um, yeah. About that…
Brett: The sad thing is, I really, genuinely love this movie. Although, I noticed more moments of “Well, that’s a troubling gag… ” than I have before. I knew the movie was going to be tough on you when I suggested it. I didn’t expect it to be a full Camp Rock situation, though.
Jeremy: I didn’t go full Camp Rock, but it was close. I’ll acknowledge that I had a… well, a now expected reaction to this movie on Twitter. Remember, these are just my opinions, and they’re no more or less valid than anyone else’s. I’m not looking to be right or to prove anyone wrong. Like what you like. But I don’t want to do everyone the disservice of not being genuine – and genuine for me is being an angry, sarcastic Boy Scout.
Brett: Nah, let it rip. We cool.
Jeremy: I’m glad to hear it, Brett. ‘Cause, Jesus Christ, this movie…
Brett: I knew that if it lost you, it would lose you hard.
Gabby: So how were you introduced to this film, Brett?
Brett: I was unable to see it in the theaters because we just didn’t make it out for that one. I caught it on cable and I must have been 12 or 13. It appealed to all the crazy things my young brain liked. It was colorful, innocent (looking), and had great music and a charm that I’d only even seen in silent movies. There is a lot of physical stuff here, a lot of silent movie gags that you don’t get anymore.
Jeremy: And this was my second viewing or a close approximation of it. I was still young enough to have a basic pass/fail mentality about movies when this showed up on cable. I got bored pretty quickly back in the day – not sure I finished it.
Gabby: This is my first time seeing it. I will say I remember liking Mr Accident. It was a long time ago, last time time I saw it. But I have it on DVD and might revisit it.
Brett: Don’t rewatch Mr. Accident, Gabby. You’re young, and you have your whole life ahead of you. So here’s some things I like. This is a story where a smart, sweet, pacifist gets to be the hero. He shares his thoughts with people, he inspires them to think more. The notion of always be thinking is held up as a good thing. And he never deviates from his pacifism, which I also like. And I listened to the soundtrack to this movie until I wore the tape out.
Gabby, back in the day, we had a thing called a cassette tape. It was a length of tape spooled and contained in a plastic housing. The tape was magnetic and when drawn over a magnetized head, it would reproduce sounds. The problem was, you only had about 10,000 plays before the tape breaks. Then you have to get a copy of the CD from a girl you were sort of dating and sort of not. I really liked the songs. And for whatever reason, the goofiness worked for me. The obvious gags, the ridiculous sound effects, the fact that it lands so on the nose so frequently. It worked for me back then.
Gabby: He does come across as a kind and sweet man. Even if incredibly naive.
Jeremy: I do appreciate that. In an American version of this film – especially in the ’80s – he would’ve sold out and lost his way. That’s something positive I can say about this movie. Here’s something else: there’s a terrific, possibly sublime 3-5 minute sketch at the heart of this movie about an Australian inventor who, in the pursuit of adding bubbles to flat beer, inadvertently discovers nuclear fission by splitting the beer atom. Maybe this sketch didn’t need the wacky hair, canned music and sound effects…or a visual gag that approaches on blackface. But it’s a terrific premise executed fairly well.
Gabby: I agree, the part that approached blackface made me uncomfortable. I am, mostly, not a fan of the scenes at his parental home, apart from his splitting atom experiment. There are some other aspects I enjoyed also. I loved the Nobel prize joke with Marie Curie. The train compartment scene with them, where that joke occurs, is kind of cute. The beginning was quite rough but slightly before the shed blew up, I kind of liked it. The rebelling against the asylum sequence, for instance, is really fun. In fact there are many little touches I really like Le Rental and the little croissant joke.
Brett: There are several sequences in this movie that are cultural. For example, Albert meets Ernest Rutherford in the asylum, who even goes so far as to introduce himself by name. Rutherford was a New Zealander who is called the Father of Nuclear Physics. The bit at the university where the bursar is actively taking money for entrance to the building was meant as a dig at the prices Australian schools were charging at the time. And many of the shots in the movie are based on Australian paintings. These jokes do not translate.
Now for me, the Looney Tunes, bent history, tell a story cray-cray style works. I have always thought, as Jeremy mentioned, that this is probably a 20-30 minute short film that has been expanded into feature length. The fact that there was nearly an hour of footage shot after Warner Brothers bought the finished movie is kind of telling. If you look for when Albert’s highlights change and he becomes suddenly tanned, you can tell that the movie was shot over a couple of years.
Gabby: I was a bit confused at certain points. Maybe due to cultural jokes or maybe due to the fact that, occasionally, the film wasn’t easy to follow. For instance, when he is trecking to Australia, he suddenly is surrounded in snow. What happened there?
Brett: Albert was basically trekking all over Australia. He starts on an island that’s on the south east, travels to almost the middle of the continent and then travels back to New South Wales and Sydney, which is about 1000 km from Tasmania, while Uluru is almost 3000 km from Sydney. He got most epically lost.
Jeremy: I kept my sanity by pretending this was still the real, German-born Einstein, and his time in Australia was kinda like Jesus’ lost years. The more I think about this movie, the funnier I think it would’ve been if this was a Life of Brian riff, with Serious playing some sweet, unknown farm boy who’s making all of Einstein’s discoveries concurrently… and doing so in a charming, oblivious, quintessentially Australian way.
The story stalls out after the first act. Serious never finds a way to keep the science and the comedy going at the same time again. Here’s my basic thesis for this movie: why does a movie about someone so smart have to be so dumb? I don’t mean purposelessly, cheerfully dumb like splitting an atom with a chisel. I’m talking dumb as in making Marie Curie the love interest for no other reason than she’s another famous scientist.
The only reason Serious makes her a scientist is so she will be able to get how brilliant Einstein is. And that goes for all the other names Serious pulled out of an old high school textbook. The rest of the movie alternates between lame gags and Science 101 lectures. I’m not expecting The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or anything, but come on, give me a better Darwin joke than him owning a pet beagle.
Gabby: I find that cool about the cultural references and the shots being based on Australian paintings. Even though they were lost on me. I like a lot of the wackiness and bent history. I dislike some as well. There are stupid jokes, then there are the wacky ones and the off hand smart ones. I prefer the latter two.
Jeremy: I should keep the cultural differences in mind. No doubt a lot of this played better to Australian audiences. I still stand by my thesis, though. One last thing before I stop being a dick: a quarter of this movie is basically a series of music videos. Which would be fine if Yahoo was a musician and these were his songs. The moment I completely lost it and said, “Oh, screw you, Serious…” was when he walked down Lonely Street in one of the montages. That may be a silly – even petty – point of no return for me. Am I the only who’s not OK with these bits?
Gabby: I wasn’t exactly a fan of the amount of montages either.
Brett: Okay, you’re all dead to me now. Just so you know. No, really, the montages are the problem with this movie for me. Pretty sure most of them are what made up most the reshoots. The surfing is pointless, the dancing with the Hari Krishna’s is pointless, the travelogue of Australia, while kinda cool is also pointless.
I also noticed a lot of the music videos are set in locations we never see again. A hint of reshoots. The thing is, the music montages would each be okay, even the surfing one that has no context, if they were the only one. If there was one montage, or maybe two. It was the ’80s. Pop music and montages were a thing. It’s the sheer number of them that kills the movie. That there is less than three minutes before the end of “At First Sight and the beginning of “Dumb Things.” “Dumb Things” was such a good song, someone put it into Look Who’s Talking.
Jeremy: It’s filler. They seemed vain and self-indulgent on this viewing. Oh look, he’s the smartest man alive and he can surf! Is there anything Einstein/Serious can’t do? I made a joke during the live-tweet that this movie is even more of a vanity project than Star Trek V. You know, the one directed by Shatner himself. I do feel a bit differently about that now. My mental jury is still out. (See my earlier comment about Marie Curie.)
Serious put his heart and soul into this. The movie exists due to his dedication and hard work. All that hard work, though, did not result in him having enough material for a whole movie. It’s obvious that Serious the director is filming Serious the actor because he doesn’t have to pay himself anything extra. Oh, and one more one last thing. What is up with all the canned sound effects?
There was not one, but two sad trombone cues, for Christ’s sake. Yahoo Serious is the Ed Wood of canned sound effects. This ends me being a dick about this movie. Now back to something positive: the songs in the montages are pretty darn good.
Brett: I seriously wore out the tape back in the day. If it had been on Amazon in digital form, I would have bought it for you guys so we could discuss the songs on their own. I would really have liked to discuss the various tunes.
Gabby: The soundtrack is fun!
Jeremy: It’s solid. I’m not familiar with the bands. This movie came out before I grew my own brain and stopped listening to my older brother’s music, which was, sadly, hair metal. I know what you mean about wearing out a cassette in your early teens. It was the Singles soundtrack for me.
Gabby, did you have the same thing with any soundtracks?
Gabby: The Practical Magic soundtrack. I have a big fondness for the movie but the soundtrack is good, I swear. Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Elvis and Marvin Gaye? Yeah, I stand by that.
Jeremy: And with that, our readers can probably peg down our respective ages within about a three-year margin of error. Final thoughts, everyone?
Brett: This could have been a tighter, better movie. In the end it’s bloated. I like the vibe of the movie, I like the silliness. However, the movie has problems and when you watch the other two movies Yahoo Serious has made, those problems become more pronounced. However, Hugo Weaving? One of his first big screen roles was in Reckless Kelly, the second movie in Yahoo’s trilogy. Oddly, that movie tries to follow the basic pattern of this one, while having a more coherent script. It’s not a better movie than this, it looks more like a traditional comedy.
Gabby: There are quite a few dull parts and even stupid ones. A lot of the time at his parents’ home for instance drove me a little mad. If this was directed by someone else then maybe the result would have resulted in a lighter, more entertaining film. The silly parts are really fun and I enjoyed snippets of this movie to keep me going through the rocky parts.
Jeremy: Oh God, the bits with the parents. Wait, no – not going to be a dick anymore. To keep it short: I’m not a fan. I don’t see how anyone could come away from this with any new knowledge or appreciation for some of history’s greatest minds. Besides a few moments of brilliance, the gags are as stale as an old joke book in the clearance section of a used bookstore. It does have heart, though – and a few good songs. That’s enough to leave me with a “I’m not angry, just disappointed…” feeling.
Brett: I will still watch this movie on a semi-regular basis, because enough of it still hits me right in the feels, as the kids say. Do kids still say the feels? Is w00t still a thing? Is saying something is “a thing” still a thing? I’m going to be 40 this year, I have no idea anymore.