The titular idea behind Flash of Genius comes rather late in this wan film about a man whose perserverance against automobile behemoth Ford led to a big windfall from them and the Chrysler corporation. The tale is set mainly in the 60s with some period detail in a Detroit suburb, but values ethics very highly.
Greg Kinnear, seen of late to better effect as an obnoxious otherworldly salesman in Ghost Town, is good as thoughtfully milquetoast Dr. Robert Kearns. Legally blind in his left eye because of freak accident during a celebration, the engineering professor begins to devise something that would resemble the variability of human blinking patterns. It comes about after a rainy trip home with his growing family from church.
First-time director Marc Abraham and screenwriter Philip Railsback try to build an inspirational tale as Kearns designs a windshield wiper through circuitry with capacitors and variable resistors. It leads to the chance to get his prototype off the ground, but Ford seems to have problems about Kearns's inexperience on the manufacturing side. Then, they turn on him and he continues on an unwavering legal charge to be recognized for his work, at the expense of his family, as well as his mental stability.
Lauren Graham as the supporting wife Phyllis is shortchanged by the script as Kearns' dogged nature kind of takes the picture into a hibernation. Dermot Mulroney is decent in the early going as business partner Gil Privick with the long sideburns and Alan Alda is effective in an all-too-brief part as an attorney who gets what appears to be a good settlement for Kearns and his family.
But, Flash of Genius doesn't really color the creative process or look with depth into the effect on Kearns' family or his position on the case. One feels family values later on with support of those like college son Dennis (Jake Abel). The other odd thing is that Kearns is still seen later in the proceedings with a Ford in his driveway that he still drives. Thus, the result is underwhelming, from the look and story from the breakdown of man on a bus built on ethics.