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Flash of Genius


Latest Home Video

Feb 17, 2009

MPAA Rating:


Run Time:



Greg Kinnear

Lauren Graham

Alan Alda


2008 Universal Studios

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Still shot from the movie: Flash of Genius.

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Reviewed by

Overall A-
Run Time119

Making the Grades

I clearly recall the day I was sitting in our family's Ford Fairlane and I told my dad I had a great idea. Why doesn't someone make a way to squirt water on the windshield so when the glass gets dirty you can clean it while driving? A few seconds later he demonstrated my great idea -- which was already a feature on the car. After viewing Flash of Genius, my early childhood experience gave me an additional appreciation for how Bob Kearns must have felt.

Unlike my post-invention great idea, Bob's (Greg Kinnear) "flash of genius" came years before, after being hit in the face by a champagne cork. Recognizing how his eyelid worked to intermittently wipe his injured eye, he wondered why something similar couldn't be done on a car's windshield wiper system. Heading to his workshop, this engineer and university professor assembled the first such device -- coined as the Kearn's Blinking Eye Motor. With help from his friend Gil Privick (Dermot Mulroney), an auto parts manufacturer, they presented the invention to executives at Ford. The response was enthusiastic -- until three months later when Ford cancelled the deal.

Bob went back to his life as a teacher, husband to Phyllis (Lauren Graham) and father of six. But a year or so after that, Ford began releasing cars with intermittent wiping systems. Outraged that the company would steal his idea, Bob began a long battle to claim his patent. It was a fight that would stretch well over a decade and cost him far more than simple legal fees.

Audiences love watching David and Goliath stories, and this one will provide that underdog experience in spades. Kinnear and Graham's performances are superb, and the look and feel of the film reflects the era in which it takes place (so does the frequent cigarette smoking by secondary characters). But what makes this movie even more valuable is the honesty of the portrayal of Bob Kearns. He loves his wife and kids, but his obsession with work and his need to seek justice come at a high price. Eventually his marriage fractures, leaving his children pulled between supporting their father or their mother. Yet a sense of love still persists within this struggling family as his now adolescent children try to determine what they can do to help their dad.

Although not a movie most young people will be clamoring to see, families should be aware that the verbal conflicts in this film sometimes result in colorful language, including one use of a sexual expletive, repeated scatological and other mild profanities as well as frequent terms of Deity used as expletives. Aside from the noted smoking and some social drinking, other content is limited to a moment of mild sexual banter between a married couple, a desperate man stealing a part from under the hood of a car, and a very brief view of a head from a cadaver.

It's not often we feel like we have seen a "real" family in a movie, yet the Kearns (who, in reality, were heavily involved in the creation of this film) comes across in a style that makes you want to jump in and help -- or at least send over a casserole. With the potential to stimulate great discussion about the cost of pursuing our goals and the price of pride, this movie is a Flash of Genius in more ways than one.

Discussion Ideas After The Movie

Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Flash of Genius.

Is justice always worth pursuing? Aside from money, what other ways did Bob Kearns pay for his quest in this film? How do we know when the costs may outweigh the rewards? What role does forgiveness play in such cases? On the other hand, if Bob Kearns had not stood up for his principles, how might that have impacted the situation for other private inventors?

Canadian Movie Ratings

AB PG Coarse Language.
ON PG Mature Theme, Language May Offend.

Canadian Home Video Rating: PG

Watch @ Home

Details on home video releases of Flash of Genius...

Flash of Genius blinks onto DVD with an audio commentary by director Marc Abraham, and deleted scenes (with an optional director’s commentary). The movie is presented in widescreen, with audio tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English and Spanish) and subtitles in English, French and Spanish.


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Mark Main says: Dec. 08, 2009

Greg Kinnear was fantastic in this movie as Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent wiper. But there is some very interesting irony with this story as well.

Florence Lawrence who was the world’s first movie star and received the very first movie credit ever—the movie was “The Broken Oath” released on November 15, 1910.

According to Kelly R. Brown’s 1999 biography, Florence Lawrence, the Biograph Girl, she was an avid automobile driver during a period when very few people actually owned cars. In 1914 she invented the first turn signal, which she called an ‘auto signaling arm’, which attached to the back fender. When a driver pressed a button it electrically raised or lowered a sign attached that indicated the direction of the intended turn. Her brake signal worked on the same principle that an arm with a sign reading ‘stop’ rose up whenever the driver pressed the brake pedal. This was the essential concept behind today’s brake lights.

Unfortunately Lawrence did not properly patent her inventions and soon other, more refined versions were invented and brought to market.

However, in 1917 with her mother she did patent a system of electrical windshield wipers, but it made no money. By the time the first electrical turn signals became standard equipment on the 1939 Buick, her contributions were long forgotten and she was dead.”

I find it amazingly ironic that the windshield wiper was a thorn in the side to not only Robert Kearns, the intermittent wiper inventor, but the original wiper inventor as well, Florence Lawrence.

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