October 4, 2008

Review: ‘Flash of Genius’

By Michael Machosky

"Flash of Genius" is a drama based on Robert Kearns, the guy who invented the intermittent windshield wiper in the 1960s.

Sorry, but despite the bold attempt to take on such an inherently undramatic subject -- and much as Greg Kinnear and company try -- this movie is about as exciting as it sounds.

Still, underdog stories always have a powerful and obvious appeal. And Kearns (Kinnear) is certainly an underdog. The Detroit- area professor and enthusiastic inventor never had a chance when Ford Motor Co. broke off the deal to use his wiper, then later stole his idea completely.

Ford, and its endless phalanx of executives and lawyers, makes a convincing villain. And Kearns is a fairly sympathetic figure who struggles to reconcile the two loves of his life -- inventing and family -- when he's forced to choose between them. His many, movie- cute kids decide to help, even if his wife (Lauren Graham) can't take the endless years of obsession.

But, like most underdog stories, we know how this ends long before we get there, even if we don't know the real story. If this tale didn't ultimately end in triumph, why would they make a big- budget Hollywood movie out of it it?

In wide release

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