You’ve heard it all before, slick sales pitches bombarding you with miracle products that let you lose weight while you sleep, or magic wrinkle removers that make fifty years old the new twenty-five. Now Kevin Spacey sweats it out on screen bringing that typical crafty character behind the con to life, in Father Of Invention. And that schizoid con delivers a correspondingly split verdict that’s filled with humor when it sticks to being funny, but sudsy when opting for sentimentality.
Spacey is Robert Axle, a billionaire celebrity pitchman hawking his own creations on television infomercials. Billing himself as what’s known as a ‘fabricator,’ Axle is into refashioning a combination of existing products into multi-tasking inventions. For example, a can of pepper spray that photographs your attacker at the same time. And most recently, a machine for ab-ing up while simultaneously flabbing in couch potato mode, in front of the TV.
But an unanticipated glitch leaves at least three thousand customers purchasing the contraption, with severed fingers. Which lands Axle in prison for eight years on a rap of depraved indifference to human life. Upon his release, a shabby and broke but no less hyper-motivated Axle is confronted with a remarried ex-wife (Virginia Madsen) who has since squandered away his many millions in his absence. And pariah status in the business community, with doors slammed in his face when proposing new fangled inventions.
There’s also a mean-spirited supervisor (Johnny Knoxville) at the local low rent department store where the parole board has assigned Axle to mop duty. Along with a resentful daughter (Camile Belle) who’s felt neglected by this virtually absentee dad while growing up. But who begrudgingly allows Axle to temporarily crash at her apartment anyway. Though the presence on the premises of a man-hating, newly declared lesbian (Heather Graham) who is fond of beating him up severely, renders this rescue from threatened homelessness a mixed bag indeed.
Writer/director Trent Cooper (Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector) appears to have either delegated or lost all sorts of authority to boisterously inclined Spacey. Who in his own subdued way, is not exactly an actor that allows co-stars to muscle in on his dominant thespian turf.
And only Graham seems to be able to hysterically hold her own during this virtual one man show, with take no prisoners tough chick tirades. And with Knoxville substantially shoved to the sidelines and coming off as more energetically creepy than comedic. Though Madsen and her bawdy new spouse (Craig Robinson) manage to squeeze in some quirky moments. Meanwhile, the solemn sidebars seemingly out of nowhere scolding disappointing dads, make no sense in what should have been a more stinging brew. And decidedly darker, no sugar please.
Anchor Bay Films
2 1/2 stars