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Flash of Genius
DVD disk
02.27.2009 By: Aaron the H
Flash of Genius order
Director:
Marc Abraham

Actors:
Greg Kinnear
Lauren Graham
Dermot Mulroney

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
In 1960ís Detroit, small-time professor Robert Kearns invents the Intermittent Windshield Wiper. But when his revolutionary invention is stolen by Ford Motor Company, he'll embark on the fight of his life to seek justice. Based on a true story.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
On the surface, 'Flash of Genius' is one of those formulaic films where you know exactly what youíre gonna get going in: a feel-good underdog story in classic David vs. Goliath form (or in this case, Kearns vs. Ford). But thatís not always such a bad thing. Sometimes, after a rough day at the office, you want nothing more than to just plop down on the couch, zonk out, and root for the little guy. In that respect, this film certainly doesnít disappoint. In fact, if you look closely, you might even find a few surprises along the wayÖ

Greg Kinnear has always excelled at playing Mr. Average, and he pulls it off yet again here. But Kinnear doesnít simply play Kearns as a flawless, likeable hero. Sure, heís intelligent, a good husband and a loving father to his six children. But the man has almost no sense of humor, is emotionally fragile, and more stubborn than a mule, to the point where his unrelenting quest to regain his dignity finally causes his wife to leave him (the adorable Lauren Graham). While we all know heíll eventually find redemption, the decades of emotional and financial turmoil he's willing to put himself and his family through had me constantly questioning if it was worth all the damage caused. I actually found myself agreeing with some of Kearnsí naysayers at times. Ford Motor Co. is the clear villain (and one I wish had a bit more screen-time), but Robertís best friend (Dermot Mulroney) and his lawyer (Alan Alda, excellent as usual) operate in more of a grey zone- not quite friends, not quite enemies. When they inevitably turn their backs on him, you almost donít blame them. This unconventional plot device is what separates the film from others of its kind and makes it pretty original.

I do wish there was a bit more umph in the film, especially in the visuals. First-time director (and longtime producer) Marc Abraham does a good enough job with pacing, but in the way of camerawork, costume and performance, he plays it a little too safe. Cinematography and acting are very restrained, almost bland, and Abraham annoyingly shies away from using any close-ups, which sucks a lot of energy out of what should have been some very emotional scenes. Youíve got Oscar-nominated actors here buddy, let 'em shine! All that said, nobody in this film will be Ďwinningí any Razzies this year, so I can't for the life of me figure out why this film has flown so under the radar. Maybe those d-bags at Ford had something to do with it...
THE EXTRAS
For a film based on a true story, the DVD is tragically void in the special features department (a featurette about the real Robert Kearns would have been nice).

Commentary by director Marc Abraham: Even though Abraham is all alone here, thereís rarely a silent moment. He comes off as a soft-spoken, very intelligent guy, who genuinely cares about the film he made. He spends most of the track explaining his intentions in detail and peppering us with some info about the real Robert Kearns and his family. Not an action-packed commentary, but educational.

Deleted Scenes (4:08): A series of very short scenes, available with or without commentary by the director. He explains what we can clearly see: while occasionally interesting, these donít add much and would have only slowed the pacing.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
If youíre in the mood for a light, well-made tale of feel-goodery (yes, thatís a word), 'Flash of Genius' should be right up your alley. The lack of special features prevent it from being a keeper, but itís certainly worth the few bucks youíll pay for a rental.
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