Once, when I was around ten years old, my parents rented a film called Young Einstein, and I watched it with my family. I enjoyed it, I thought it was silly, and I laughed, but it wasn’t one of those films where I sought to watch it again and again. In fact, I haven’t seen it since. I still recall it fairly well, though, and in hindsight it’s one of those films that I suspect probably doesn’t hold up particularly well as an adult, but probably isn’t offensively bad either. I remember it having some moments that would still cause me to laugh as an adult, but probably lacked any real second-viewing value. Looking at its page on IMDb, where it sits at a middling 4.7, it seems most people agree with my recollections.
Why do I bring this up? Well, if you look at the picture at right, you can figure it out fairly easily. Channel surfing early this morning, I came across Mr. Accident, a film released in 2000 that, like Young Einstein, is written by, directed by, and stars Yahoo Serious. I had no idea such a thing existed. Yahoo Serious had always struck me as a sort of cinematic one-hit wonder, and it didn’t occur to me that he had any films after Young Einstein. (Looking at his IMDb page, it turns out he has another writer-director-star trifecta with a 1993 film, Reckless Kelly.) Having discovered such a film, I of course had to check it out. After all, I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to see if Yahoo Serious has grown as an artist, could I?
It’s just possible I may have Serious problems with my sanity.
Yahoo Serious plays Roger Crumpkin, a compulsive dismantler who works as a maintenance man at an egg packaging factory. It’s interesting looking at Serious, aged 47 at the time of the film’s release, and realizing that he really hasn’t aged all that much since Young Einstein twelve years earlier. He still looks like an awkward teenager, and he still looks and moves like a spastic ostrich with a feather duster on its head. As the title of the film implies, Roger is highly accident prone, and much of the humor relies on the slapstick catastrophes that spring up around him. The slapstick actually works to some extent; the timing is usually pretty good, and if some of the gags are easy to see coming, most of them are still good for a smile and occasionally a laugh. I did have a bit of a problem in that some of the visual effects used to pull off the gags were obviously unnatural, but the jokes themselves were all right.
The rest of the humor comes from the personalities of the characters… unfortunately, it’s all awkward and unnatural humor. Roger’s best friend and roommate, Lyndon (Grant Piro) is about as gawkish as Roger, but fancies himself a ladies’ man. He alternates between tiring of Roger’s weirdness and cheerfully going along with it, such as with the dinner sequence where the two sit down to eat square prefabricated bachelor meals (this being one of a few areas where the film opts to substitute weirdness for humor.) Roger’s boss, Duxton Chevalier (David Field), is an evil and inconsiderate man, and Field alternates between a soft-spoken manner and hamming it up in as over-the-top a fashion as he can. The character quickly gets tiresome, but this isn’t entirely Field’s fault; after all, Serious wrote the script.
Roger’s girlfriend — and his boss’s ex-girlfriend (and as close to a plot as we get) — is Sunday Valentine, played by Helen Dallimore. She’s a bit ditzy, naive, and searches for extra-terrestrial life. The awkward romance between her and Roger forms the bulk of the non-slapstick humor, and it’s a bit on the painful side. Fortunately, it’s often broken up by the slapstick, which while not spectacular, is usually worth cracking a smile over.
Oh, and there’s Sunday’s roommate, Rikki (Jeanette Cronin). There really isn’t anything to her character other than a joke, and the joke with her is that she’s a cop, a compulsive shopper, and has a large rear. This seems to have been put in the film solely for one gross-out joke that winds up feeling very out of place, as much of the film is actually pretty clean, aside from a few innuendos.
Directorially, Serious’s work in the film is all over the map. There are some awkward cuts and jumps in the film, and one sequence done in high speed to show the passage of time that probably would have been better served by a gentle scene transition. And as noted before, many times the objects flying across the room during the slapstick sequences look out of place, as if they are CGI’d in — or perhaps as if CGI were used to edit out wires or something. I’m not sure precisely what, only that they didn’t look right. And yet, there are also definite strengths in Serious’s directing. There are some very good scene-establishing shots, and the timing on the slapstick sequences are generally spot on.
In terms of writing, the film is a bit on the weak side. The plot doesn’t feel as well-rounded as Young Einstein, and there’s another sentence I never thought I’d type. The romance between Roger and Sunday makes up the bulk of it, with a B-plot about the egg packing factory coming in largely at the end, and the romance really isn’t enough to sustain things. Had the B-plot been shifted to the focus early on and stayed there, it might have been a more entertaining film. Additionally, there are a couple flashbacks to Roger’s childhood that are unfunny and tedious, and add nothing to the story. They’re meant to explain why Roger is the way he is, but the explanation isn’t really necessary. We can laugh at Roger just as easily without them, and the one that occurs mid-film just bogs things down (the other childhood scene is a prologue).
There’s some raw potential in Mr. Accident. It did have me laughing a few times, and it’s not so bad that I wish I hadn’t seen it. But it’s not so good that I would want to see it again, either. I do find myself wondering if perhaps Yahoo Serious needs to be more than a two-man operation. He and David Roach have co-written and co-produced all three of his films, with Serious directing and starring in all three, and there’s just enough quality in the two of them I’ve seen to raise the question of whether a more skilled director or a deft re-write could have developed them into better comedies. As it is, though, Yahoo Serious’s Mr. Accident isn’t seriously funny.