Young Einstein

Young Einstein. Warner Brothers Pictures 1988.

Before Watching the Movie:

Rarely do I come across a movie I know nothing about that has me asking questions. Young Einstein is one of those movies. Australian comedian Yahoo Serious plays a character the box assures me is named Albert Einstein, who is apparently a genius bum, but I don’t know if that’s THE Einstein or another one, or if it’s even set in the early 20th century or contemporaneously.  I don’t know if I’m going to be laughing with the movie, at the movie, or just crying for the loss of a physicist’s dignity.

During/After watching the movie:

Albert Einstein is a young man growing up on a Tasmanian apple orchard in 1905 who one day discovers he wants to be a physicist. His father decides to put his son’s “science” to work at trying to figure out how to put bubbles in the family beer. He decides to try “splitting beer atoms” and discovers that E=mc², with the minor side effect of blowing up the distillery. Going to Sydney to patent his fizzy beer formula, he meets Preston Preston, a pretentious man of science, and Marie Curie, who is studying at the local university. Preston immediately takes a disliking to Einstein for his unorthodox theories and “bushman” mannerisms. Einstein and Curie begin to court, but Preston is determined to discredit Einstein once and for all, as well as make money off of dangerously fizzy beer.

I’ve heard Yahoo Serious’s name before, but never seen him perform. His Einstein is probably a slight modification of his typical stage persona. “Albert Einstein” is innocent, simple, and prone to having flashes of inspiration that seem to be beamed into his head from outside, accompanied with some technobabble that may or may not be tangentially related. Besides relativity, his most scientific idea is to amplify music by electrifying an instrument. Inventions include “Roll and Rock,” the electric violin, and surfing.

As one may expect, science and history are treated as contents of a toy box with which the writers can play. I’m not going to say this is a bad thing, since it makes for a farce of higher-than-average intelligence, but sometimes the jokes are a little thin. The film never really acts as if it understands what “energy equals mass times the square of the speed of light” means in any capacity other than “this makes a lot of energy, which will likely cause explosions.”   Charles Darwin appears in a scene, and is accompanied by a beagle which just had to have a collar proclaiming it is “THE BEAGLE.” (I must admit my first reaction was a chuckle, even if it is an inane joke.)

Overall, the film is entertaining in a simple way, though the second act gets lost in the jokes.  Until Preston stole the beer bubbling technology, it didn’t seem to be going anywhere.  Its interpretations of historical  figures are generally either funny or dull. The conclusion? Fairly predictable, but no less fun to watch.

See this Film: with the tongue portrait of Einstein firmly in mind.

Don’t see this film: If a physicist inventing Rock and Roll causes an atomic blast between your ears.

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