PG-13 for brief strong language.
Oct. 3, 2008
Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Jake Abel, Bill Smitrovich, Aaron Abrams
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Not Much Spark in 'Flash of Genius'
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Senior Producer
- Robert Kearns only wants the recognition that is due him, and he won’t give up until he has it. That’s the premise for Flash of Genius starring Greg Kinnear. The movie is based on Kearn’s true story of taking on the automobile industry after they stole his idea for the intermittent windshield wiper.
The film opens with Kearns, his wife, and their six kids living the American dream in suburban Detroit. He is a college professor and his wife is a teacher. In his free time, Kearns works on inventions hoping to discover the next big thing.
Driving home from church with his family one day, he has an epiphany. He notices that it isn’t raining hard enough to need his windshield wipers all the time, which leads him to ask, "Why can’t windshield wipers work intermittently like the human eye?" Working off of this idea, he invents what he calls the “blinking-eye wiper.”
Kearns takes the idea to The Ford Motor Company and learns that they too have been seeking to make an intermittent wiper, but their early attempts have been unsuccessful. They are eager to see the details of his design and they quickly strike up a deal with him.
Later, Kearn’s hopes are dashed when he is informed that Ford has reneged on the deal. Not only that, he soon learns that they have taken his design and installed the wipers on many of their new cars without giving him any credit.
Determined to find justice, the inventor begins a decades-long legal battle with the automobile industry. His fight for justice comes at a high cost to both his family and his mental well being. While he is hailed as a hero by other small-time inventors like himself, the price he has to pay makes any victory that he can achieve seem less meaningful. Was it worth it? The movie leaves it up to the audience to decide.
While the true story behind Flash of Genius is a touching one, this film version lacks dramatic luster. The pace of the story is painfully slow. The bright spot of this film is the casting of Kinnear who is finally seeing more prominent roles (he was also recently in Ghost Town) and proving that he is more than up to the challenge. He carries the film even during its slowest moments.
Another excellent performance comes from Alan Alda in the role of the smug, cut-throat lawyer that Kearns initially hires to represent him. He passionately tries to convince Kearns that he is fighting a losing battle and encourages him to accept the lucrative deal that Ford offers at one point. Alda’s zeal is a welcome change in a story that provides very little to get excited about.
The last third of the movie picks up a little with a few comical courtroom scenes, where Kearns represents himself, before coming to a bittersweet conclusion.
While the film may lack energy, at least it is fairly family friendly. There are a few instances of bad language, but parents won't find much offensive material here. It’s certainly not must-see entertainment, but for the price of a matinee ticket the movie would make for an enjoyable afternoon.
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