‘Extraordinary Measures’ is safe, not extraordinary


For its big screen debut, start-up studio CBS Films
delivers what might, in an earlier age, have been a “disease of the
week” TV movie. “Extraordinary Measures” is a sometimes moving, solid
if unsurprising account of a father’s tireless efforts to use his
business acumen to develop a cure for his children’s fatal genetic

Brendan Fraser plays John Crowley, an on-the-rise marketing executive who comes home to a loving wife (Keri Russell)
and two adoring children. But the kids, under the age of 9, are in
wheelchairs. They have Pompe Disease, a disorder that is certain to
kill them before their 10th birthdays.

Doctors just want the Crowleys to comfort their kids
because nothing can be done. But John isn’t ready to watch them die. He
does his homework, reaches out to any and all who are working on the
disorder. That’s how he tracks down Dr. Robert Stonehill. Harrison Ford plays Stonehill as a curmudgeon, holed up in his Nebraska lab, dodging phone calls and callously ignoring the human side to his research.

“This is a theory, not a therapy,” he growls to
Crowley, when John, frantic over the latest hospitalization, finally
reaches Stonehill. So John cuts to the chase. How much to develop a
drug, test it and take it to market?

Egos clash as John quits his job and gambles on
raising funds and starting a bio-tech company. The script slips into
tedium as we see the proud, pigheaded scientist’s ways of nearly
derailing the operation, repeatedly, and the father’s willingness to
mortgage his and Stonehill’s future to save the kids.

But Tom Vaughan (“What Happens in Vegas”) finds plenty of heart in Robert Nelson Jacobs’ script (based on a true story). When scientists and businessmen forget
who this is all about, Crowley brings in children with wheelchairs.
Fraser is well-cast as an emotional guy who manipulates emotions (as
does the film) to win arguments. He holds his own in most scenes with
Ford, who also was “on the nose” casting.

The movie’s biggest shortcoming is its lack of surprise. When you cast David Clennon,
famed for his icy “thirtysomething” business titan, as an icy business
titan, you’re not taking risks. As studio debuts go, “Extraordinary
Measures” isn’t extraordinary. It’s simply safe.

Extraordinary Measures

2 stars (out of 4)

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford, Keri Russell

Director: Tom Vaughan

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Industry rating: PG for thematic material, language and a mild suggestive moment

(c) 2010, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).

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