With all due respect to the Shake-Weight, not all inventions should see the light of day. The same applies to movies, even if they seemed to look good on paper, as is the Trent Cooper directed Father of Invention.
Robert Axle (Kevin Spacey) is an infomercial guru, but would rather be called a fabricator. You see, fabricators don’t invent per se, they combine two existing products to create an even better one. His multi-million dollar empire helped bring to the world such ingenious inventions…sorry fabrications as a dinosaur shaped nightlight/humidifier and a combo camera/pepper sprayer, so you can not only stop your attacker, but take a picture of him to send to the cops…or post on facebook.
When he combines an ab-roller, a TV remote and an ounce of hubris, he not only creates an instant classic, but the basis for a lawsuit that gets him locked up for a decade. It turns out the Ab-clicker not only separated customers from their money, but also from their ring fingers.
When he’s released, he finds out his fall from grace is a lot further than he thought. His neurotic wife Lorraine (Virginia Madsen) has moved on and now lives with her new beau, a likable park ranger named Jerry (Craig Robinson). The only thing worse than her singing (she bought 498,000 copies of her own CDs just to have a gold record) is her financial sense.
She’s blown the $400 mil that she got from Robert. His daughter Claire (Camilla Belle) has not only changed her name, but would rather him sleep in a shelter than be near him. She relents; however, and gives him a month to get on his feet. Of course, rehabilitation to Robert is about fabricating new items, reconnecting with his inner mogul and winning his daughter’s respect back along the way.
Just like Robert Axel’s Ab Clicker, not enough research and development was done to avert disaster with the script. Sure, no one lost a finger, but these are still 93 minutes that I’ll never get back. Axel is a cross between Ron Popeil and Vince McMahon, which is part of his charm and you wish you could’ve seen more of that guy. Instead, we’re left with an unbelievable shell of a billionaire who somehow manages to con his supermarket boss (Johnny Knoxville), who fires him after a day, to go in on his latest scheme.
Robert’s charm goes across sexual orientations also as he manages to convince Claire’s foul-mouthed lesbian roommate Phoebe (Heather Graham) that she really wants to switch teams after a brief time together featuring a moment of chivalry. What could’ve been an interesting taming of a semi-sapphic shrew was dropped almost as fast as it was shown.
Father of Invention is not without its comic moments. Unfortunately, they take place during the end credits when there’s a funny duet between Lorraine and Jerry. Although Robert is put in potentially funny moments, they only leave you cringing as the scene when he speaks up at Claire’s Women Employment charity after mistaking it for a drug rehab facility. Both real and onscreen audiences were left thinking “Why didn’t someone stop this?”
You’d think Cooper would know about what’s not funny after last directing Larry the Cable Guy: Heath Inspector. Perhaps, he was too excited to be working with an actor like Kevin Spacey and didn’t want to bring up anything that would make the movie actually interesting. As is always the case, there’s a moment of moral discovery and everyone goes home happy, unless you actually paid to see this film. If you’re still on the fence, the film will actually be on DVD on October 25th.