Flash of Genius parents guide

Flash of Genius Parent Guide

Overall A-

Based on a true story, Flash of Genius recounts the experiences of Robert Kearns (played by Greg Kinnear), a college professor who invents an intermittent windshield wiper. Although he is unsuccessful at selling his patented technology, he soon discovers his work has been incorporated into new models of cars. Convinced he has been robbed of the credit and financial rewards of his work, he launches a lawsuit against the U.S. automotive industry.

Release date October 2, 2008

Violence B+
Sexual Content B+
Profanity C-
Substance Use C

Why is Flash of Genius rated PG-13? The MPAA rated Flash of Genius PG-13 for brief strong language.

Run Time: 119 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

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.

Starring Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Alan Alda. Running time: 119 minutes. Theatrical release October 2, 2008. Updated

Flash of Genius
Rating & Content Info

Why is Flash of Genius rated PG-13? Flash of Genius is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for brief strong language.

This story of a frustrated inventor received a PG-13 rating from the US MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), likely because of its inclusion of one sexual expletive, repeated scatological and mild profanities, as well as repeated uses of terms of Deity as expletives. Other content is limited to some brief, mild sexual discussion between a husband and wife and a startling moment when the head from a cadaver is shown. A man steals a part from under the hood of a person’s car. Many secondary characters smoke cigarettes in this period film. Social drinking is also portrayed. A man suffers from a mental breakdown and is seen taking prescription medications.

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Flash of Genius Parents' Guide

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?

Home Video

The most recent home video release of Flash of Genius movie is February 17, 2009. Here are some details…

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.


Related home video titles:

Tucker: The Man and His Dream retells the true story of another inventor who hits major obstacles and lawsuits when he pits his unique car designs against Detroit’s Big Three auto manufacturers. In Something the Lord Made, a lab assistant struggles for recognition and racial equality as he works with a highly regarded doctor to open the medical frontier of cardiac surgery. (This made-for-TV movie is also based on a real account).