Young Einstein

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Not to be confused with Baby Einstein or Little Einsteins.
Young Einstein
VHS cover
Directed by Yahoo Serious
Produced by
  • David Roach
  • Warwick Ross
  • Yahoo Serious
Written by
  • David Roach
  • Yahoo Serious
Music by
Cinematography Jeff Darling
Edited by
  • David Roach
  • Amanda Robson
  • Neil Thumpston
  • Peter Whitmore
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • 15 December 1988 (1988-12-15) (Australia)
  • 4 August 1989 (1989-08-04) (United States)
Running time
91 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Budget $5 million[1]
Box office $24.9 million

Young Einstein is a 1988 Australian comedy film written, produced, directed by and starring Yahoo Serious. It was based loosely on the life of Albert Einstein, but relocated the theoretical physicist to Australia and had him splitting the atom with a chisel, inventing rock and roll and surfing.

Although highly successful in Australia, and winning an award from the Australian Film Institute Awards, it was poorly received by critics in America.


Albert Einstein, the son of an apple farmer in Tasmania in the early 1900s, splits a beer atom with a chisel in order to add bubbles to beer, discovers the theory of relativity and travels to Sydney to patent it. While there, he invents the electric guitar and surfing while romancing Marie Curie. He invents rock and roll and uses it to save the world from being destroyed due to misuse of a nuclear reactor under the watchful eye of Charles Darwin.



Serious first became interested in Albert Einstein when he was travelling down the Amazon River and saw a local wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a physicist on it.[2] The image was that of Einstein sticking out his tongue, taken by photographer Arthur Sasse.[3]

On returning from the Amazon, Serious adapted a previous screenplay called The Great Galute which he had written with David Roach. It was a story about an Australian who invents rock and roll. The two developed The Great Galute into Young Einstein.[4]

The film was created on an extremely low budget, so low that Serious sold his car to generate funds, cameras were borrowed,[5] and his mother cooked for the crew.[6]

Serious managed to get Australian Film Commission support for the movie. By March 1984, an hour of the film had been shot, partly by the AFC and partly by private investment.[7] Serious was then able to pre-sell the film to an American company, Film Accord, for $2 million. This enabled him to raise the film's original budget of $2.2 million.[8] The movie started filming again late in 1985 and went for seven weeks, from 23 September, taking place in Newcastle and Wollombi, near Cessnock in the Hunter Valley, with second unit at various locations throughout Australia. A 91-minute version of the film was entered in the 1986 AFI Awards where composer William Motzing won Best Music.[1][9]

In 1986, Film Accord sued the production to recover its distribution guarantee and the rushes, claiming the film delivered was not the one it had contracted to buy. The dispute was settled out of court.[7]

Serious was unhappy with his first version of the film.[10] Graham Burke from Roadshow saw it and became enthusiastic about its possibilities. Roadshow bought out Film Accord in March 1987, persuaded Warner Bros. to take on the film for international distribution outside Australia, and financed re-shooting, re-editing and re-scoring, resulting in an hour of new material (including a new ending) and new music score (including the addition of songs by bands such as Mental As Anything). This pushed the budget of the film up to $5 million. Warner Bros. contributed A$4 million to the full version of the film, and would go on to spend eight million on marketing the film in the United States alone.[6][11]

Serious' key collaborators in the movie were co-writer David Roach, co-producer Warwick Rodd and associate producer Lulu Pinkus. He has said it helped that they all shared the same vision for the movie which got them through the long production process.[10]

Serious refused to consider making a sequel to the film, as he stated in interviews that he was opposed to them in general.[2]


Critical response[edit]

The film received negative reviews in the United States, with Spin describing the release as a "marketing misfire" due to Warner Bros. "PR department's penchant for overkill".[12] Roger Ebert called it a "one-joke movie, and I didn't laugh much the first time." He postulated that the possible lack of appeal to an American audience was because "[b]y moving Einstein to Australia, he was able to set up comic situations that appeal to the vast and inexhaustible fascination the Australians have about their own isolation and gawky charm. But the jokes don't travel very well."[13] He gave the film one star out of a possible four.[14] The reviewers at the Washington Post were unimpressed: Rita Kempley called the film "dumber-than-a-bowling-ball" and questioned its mass appeal; Desson Howe noted that distributor Warner Bros. had made it a "pre-processed legend" regardless of merit.[15][16] The New York Times was more tempered, noting that though the film was "an uneven series of sketches strung along an extended joke", that the first time director Serious "is a much more adept film maker than his loony plot suggests."[17]

The Los Angeles Times gave a favorable review, saying the film would appeal to younger audiences and that "it's just about impossible to dislike a movie in which examples of the hero's pacifism include his risking his life to save kitties from being baked to death inside a pie."[18] Neil Jillett of Australia's The Age reviewed the film positively, noting that despite some "directorial slackness", the film was "a lively work that is sophisticated and innocent, witty and farcical, satirical and unmalicious, intelligent but not condescending, full of concern with big issues but not arrogantly didactic, thoroughly Australian but not nationalistic."[19] Variety meanwhile thought that the film relied on the performance of Yahoo Serious, who they described "exhibits a brash and confident sense of humor, endearing personality, and a fondness for sight gags."[20] Although giving it a low rating, Leonard Maltin stated, "any movie with 'cat pies' can't be all bad".[21]

In the UK, William Russell for the Glasgow Herald described the film as trying "too hard to be funny for its own good." Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 35% rating based on reviews from 31 critics.[citation needed]

Box office[edit]

Young Einstein grossed A$13,383,377 at the box office in Australia.[22] On release in Australia, it became the fifth biggest opening in Australian film history behind "Crocodile" Dundee and its sequel, Rocky IV and Fatal Attraction. It grossed A$1.26 million in the opening weekend, despite being released in only three states.[23] It was only the third film of 1988 to break the A$1 million barrier at the Australian box office.[23] Young Einstein became the tenth most successful film released at the Australian box office,[24] after being the second most successful Australian film ever on release after "Crocodile" Dundee.[25]

In the United States, it debuted at #8 on opening weekend.[26] US distributor Warner Bros., hoping for similar crossover success as "Crocodile" Dundee, spent US$8 million on a major marketing push.[27] It continues to be regarded as a flop.[28] It ended its US theatrical run at $11,536,599.[29]

The film has been released on DVD in region 1. The DVD is available in Australia by LA Entertainment.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Organization Award category Result
Australian Film Institute Awards[30] Best Cinematography Nominated
Best Original Music Score Won
Best Original Screenplay Nominated
Best Sound Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b David Stratton, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan MacMillan, 1990 pp. 315–318
  2. ^ a b "This is one yahoo who is serious about film". The Telegraph-Herald. Dubuque, IA. 4 August 1989. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "Theoretically, it's relative". Times Daily. 8 August 1989. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  4. ^ Beaumont, Janise (21 July 1988). "Meet Yahoo Serious". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 124. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  5. ^ Davies, Steven Paul (2001). A-Z of Cult Films and Film-maker. London: Batsford. p. 234. ISBN 978-0-7134-8704-6. 
  6. ^ a b Jones, Edward (12 August 1989). "Yahoo who?". The Free Lance-Star. p. 5. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Philippa Hawker, "Young Einstein", Australian Film 1978-1992, Oxford Uni Press, 1993 p261
  8. ^ "Production Survey", Cinema Papers, January 1986 p51
  9. ^ "Production round-up", Cinema Papers, November 1985 p48
  10. ^ a b Philippa Hawker, "Start Laughing ", Cinema Papers, January 1989 p11-12
  11. ^ McGregor, Andrew (2010). Film criticism as cultural fantasy : the perpetual French discovery of Australian cinema. Bern; New York: Peter Lang. p. 220. ISBN 978-3-0343-0053-7. 
  12. ^ Burr, Ty (March 1990). "Video Rewind". Spin. 5 (12): 66. 
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (4 August 1989). "Young Einstein". Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (6 August 1989). "'Young Einstein' is pretty brainless". The Day. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  15. ^ Kempley, Rita (4 August 1989). "'Young Einstein' (PG)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  16. ^ Howe, Desson (4 August 1989). "'Young Einstein' (PG)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  17. ^ James, Caryn (4 August 1989). "Young Einstein (1988)". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  18. ^ Willman, Chris (4 August 1989). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Young Einstein': Humorous Rock 'n' Roll Formula". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  19. ^ Jillett, Neil (15 December 1988). "Yahoo's comedy is very funny, seriously". The Age. p. 14. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  20. ^ "Young Einstein". Variety. 31 December 1987. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
  23. ^ a b Casimir, John (24 December 1988). "Year of few films and few successes". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  24. ^ Moran, Albert (2005). Historical dictionary of Australian and New Zealand cinema. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-8108-5459-8. 
  25. ^ Film review, 1990-91. Virgin. 1990. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-86369-374-8. 
  26. ^ August 4-6, 1989 - Weekend, accessed February 22, 2016.
  27. ^ [1], Slant Magazine, August 6, 2014, accessed February 22, 2016.
  28. ^ "Australian comic named Yahoo Serious who starred in the 1988 Warner Brothers flop "Young Einstein"." When Terry Met Jerry, Yahoo!, The New York Times, January 29, 2006, accessed February 22, 2016.
  29. ^ "Young Einstein (1989)". 29 August 1989. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  30. ^ Moran, Albert; Vieth, Errol (2009). The A to Z of Australian and New Zealand Cinema. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. p. 265. ISBN 978-0-8108-6831-1. 

External links[edit]