Flash of Genius
By S. Jhoanna Robledo,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Inventor fights for recognition in feel-good film.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
A large company betrays a man who decides to fight obsessively to get the credit he thinks is rightfully his. To a certain extent, he sacrifices his family life in doing so. Nevertheless, the family is portrayed as supportive and encouraging, even in times of great difficulty.
Violence & Scariness
A man shows up unannounced at a company event and makes a scene; he's ushered out by security. A man throws a drink at a car. Otherwise, the battles are largely in the courtroom.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
A little bit of kissing and sexual innuendo.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Some use -- at times by children -- of the words "bastard," "damn," and "s--t." One use of "f--k."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Since the film is set in Detroit, there are many mentions of the big American automotive companies: Ford, Chrysler, GM. Car decals and logos are displayed, as is signage for dealerships and manufacturers. Some mention of Case Western University and Pepsi.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some social drinking; some smoking by minor characters (accurate for the time period).
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this fact-based "feel good" drama focuses on a determined man's unflagging quest to receive credit for his invention. Ultimately, it's heartening to see how far he gets, though some scenes may be overwhelming for very young children (for example, when the main character has a nervous breakdown). At times, the protagonist seems neglectful of his marriage and kids, but overall they're close and supportive. There's some swearing (including "s--t" and one use of "f--k"), social drinking, and smoking, but there's no violence or age-inappropriate sexual content.
To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Where to Watch
Based on 3 parent reviews
I liked it...a lot.
Report this review
Nice business story, not a good family lesson
Report this review
What's the Story?
The phrase "flash of genius" refers to that moment of epiphany when an inventor discerns a crucial connection that -- hopefully -- leads to an important discovery. In FLASH OF GENIUS, Robert "Bob" Kearns' (Greg Kinnear) moment comes while driving with his family in the rain in the 1960s. Wondering why his windshield wipers, which had only one speed, couldn't work more like an eyelid -- blinking fast or slow as necessary -- the engineering professor and father of six sets out to solve the problem, eventually building an intermittent wiper. He and his friend Gil (Dermot Mulroney) try to sell the invention to Ford Motor Company, and a deal seems imminent. But at the last minute -- after Kearns gives them some valuable information about his gadget -- they decline. Then one day Kearns spies Ford's newest cars shimmying down the road, intermittent wipers working full-time. Kearns is convinced the behemoth company stole his idea and sets out to right the wrong. But at what cost?
Is It Any Good?
Inspired by real-life events, Flash of Genius is -- like its lead actor -- amiable and likable. Its populist tug at the heart is hard to resist (big kudos for making windshield wipers interesting). Kearns is anti-establishment in the purest sense of the word; he doesn't even want the money. He just wants people to know that Ford stole his idea and that he deserves the credit (or so the movie goes). For this, Kinnear -- who appears to be gunning for James Stewart's good-guy-makes-good mantle -- is more than able.
But the film lacks, well, genius. As David-and-Goliath tales go, it's no Rocky. The characters feel flimsy and one-dimensional; had they been rendered more fully and less after school-special-like, the movie would have been far more compelling. (Kearns, after all, did neglect his family; why are they so forgiving? Were they in real life?) As it is, Flash of Genius, while it scores high on the feel-good factor, is a little flat and a lot unsurprising.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why Robert Kearns' story made a good subject for a movie. How accurate do you think the film is? Why might filmmakers bend the truth when making a movie based on real life? How could you find out more about Kearns if you wanted to? Also, why do you think his struggle took over his life? Why was it so important to him to get credit? Did he go too far? What were the consequences of his obsession? What makes someone an inventor? Was his idea stolen, or are the facts of the case not cut and dried?
- In theaters: October 3, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2009
- Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham
- Director: Marc Abraham
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief strong language.
- Last updated: November 23, 2022
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Watch
Our Editors Recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate