Times have been tough for former infomercial guru Robert Axle (Spacey). A specialist in outlandish multiuse contraptions---it's a blow-dryer and a hair trimmer!---Axle is abandoned by his family, publicly disgraced and imprisoned when his abdominal-flexor-cum-channel-changer accidentally guillotines his customers' fingers. Once free, the ex-con sports a mangy hobo beard and begs his scornful daughter (Belle) to let him crash on her couch. It's only a matter of time until Axle happens upon a brilliant new idea, rediscovers personal hygiene and starts to prove himself as a father.
With the story snapping snugly into place, and writer-director Trent Cooper amping every emotional cue with soulful acoustic strumming, the only question is whether the overqualified cast can make this hokum endurable. Spacey is ever the pro, shilling Axle's absurd redemption and countenancing the likes of Johnny Knoxville and John Stamos as if a third Oscar were in the offing. Yet his female costars fare worse, forming an unfortunate collection of dismal, man-dependent stereotypes, from Belle's perma-pouting idealist to Heather Graham's breast-obsessed, sapphic-by-choice ballbuster. "I had a Take Back the Night moment," she says by way of denigrating antirape activism as a phase of fickle womanhood. (So sidesplitting!) For all its eagerness to please, you'd think Father of Invention could come up with at least one sister of independence.
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