Reviewer’s Grade: C
Greg Kinnear stars as Dr. Bob Kearns, a regular guy living in Detroit with his wife (Lauren Graham), six kids and a doctorate in engineering. One rainy day in the Sixties, Kearns and the fam are driving home from church. It is drizzling. Back then, windshield wipers only flapped at one constant speed, so Kearns has to click them on and off by hand to keep the wipers from making that annoying squeaky noise they make when the glass is dry.
From his frustration is born one of the great miracles of the Machine Age “ the intermittent windshield wiper. Kearns creates a working demonstration in an old fish tank and gets his old pal Gil (Dermot Mulroney) to partner up with him. Old Gil hooks Kearns up with some guys at Ford Motor Company. One day, inexplicably, old Gil breaks the news that Ford has pulled out. Then, 18 months later, Kearns finds out that Ford has incorporated an intermittent wiper system into their new models that bears a suspicious resemblance to the invention Ford supposedly didn’t want. Kearns flips out and tries to sue, but no one wants to help him with the litigation. “Flash of Genius” isn’t technically a bad movie.
Kinnear and Graham are believable and charming as a stressed-out-but-happy married couple, and there’s even a nice cameo from Alan Alda as a cynical lawyer. It’s a solid directorial debut from producer Marc Abraham that will be mostly forgotten because of its ultimately forgettable main character. PG-13