Aussie comic Yahoo Serious is an acquired taste whose two previous features, “Young Einstein” (1988) and “Reckless Kelly” (1993), did solid biz in Australia and found cult fans abroad. His third outing, long in the works and bearing a 1999 copyright, is basically more of the same, with the sweet-faced Serious at the center of some strenuous knockabout comedy routines of variable quality. Local distrib Roadshow should be able to market “Mr. Accident” to a solid opening week just before the Olympic Games hit Oz, providing some useful counterprogramming, but critical reaction is likely to be unfriendly and word of mouth spotty. Foreign results will be mixed as well; pic has been sold worldwide by United Artists, which picked up the production tab.
The previous Serious features were centered, albeit freely, around real-life characters, Albert Einstein and Irish-Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. This time out, Serious has invented Roger Crumpkin, a slow-witted, accident-prone innocent capable of destroying his Sydney harborside apartment while preparing breakfast.
Crumpkin, who since childhood has had an “obsessive-compulsive dismantling fixation,” which means that he can’t get his hands on a mechanical object without taking it apart, holds down a job as a maintenance officer for the giant Sydney Egg House, run by amiable egghead Kelvin Chevalier (Garry McDonald.) The company, described as “the biggest free-range egg enterprise in the country,” is headquartered in the Sydney Opera House, just one of the pic’s many surreal — but not very successful — touches.
When Kelvin is forced out by his nasty brother, Duxton (David Field), a former tobacco company exec, Crumpkin’s woes begin; his new boss is less tolerant of his accident-prone proclivities. Matters are further complicated when Duxton’s girl, Sunday (Helen Dallimore, an adequate heroine), accidentally stumbles into Crumpkin’s apartment, mistaking it for the one she shares with a bossy policewoman (Jeanette Cronin), apparently in love with her German shepherd. Sunday, who believes the Earth is being visited by aliens, and Crumpkin are made for each other.
None of this is as funny as it should be, mainly because Serious hasn’t learned from the great comedians, beginning with Buster Keaton, that this kind of frantic farce is best played out against a realistic background. Everything and everyone in “Mr. Accident” strains for laughs; pic opens with a strenuously unfunny depiction of what life was like for Crumpkin as a child and never settles down, with good actors like Field encouraged to mug.
It’s a pity, because in many ways Serious is able to devise near-classical sequences. There’s a wonderful bit in which Crumpkin is pursued down the nine floors of his ancient apartment building by hundreds of overflowing garbage bins. But for every successful gag, there are two or three misfires. And while Serious occasionally comes up with some bright scripting, much of the double entendre-fixated dialogue fizzles.
Serious injects a “serious” anti-tobacco theme into the proceedings with mixed results. The generally unsophisticated level of humor regularly swamps the few subtleties the for which the script seems to be striving.
The star displays an appealing persona, with his unkempt red hair and his sweetly naive disposition. By the current standards of Hollywood comic vulgarity, he’s a veritable innocent. A clown more in the tradition of Jerry Lewis than Keaton, Serious perhaps needs new collaborators to help him make the most of his comic invention and talent.
Pic’s design is garishly overdone most of the time, in keeping with the overall concept, and colorful lensing adds to the feeling of visual overkill. Editing is brisk.