Movie Review – Extraordinary Measures

Plot:  Based on a true story.  John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) seeks out Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), a brilliant scientist whose theory of curing Pompe Disease may be the only chance of saving Crowley’s two children inflicted with the disease.  Crowley, an up and coming business man, must get Stonehill’s research funded in order to begin clinical trials of his work.

Break out the tissues, Extraordinary Measures is one of those tear-jerkers.  This is a solid effort though, but I have to say these kinds of movies are hard to screw up.  I mean come on, it’s a story about two children inflicted with a serious disease.  I find it hard to believe audiences would walk out saying, “Gee, you know, I really didn’t like that.”  These are always safe films.  Director Tom Vaughan (What Happens In Vegas) gives a good effort, but this movie is entirely carried by the great Harrison Ford.

Although I would have liked to of seen Harrison Ford in more scenes, I guess it was more effective to limit his screen time.  Ford plays the brilliant Dr. Robert Stonehill whose scientific theories hold the key to developing a medicine for Pompe Disease, a condition that causes muscle weakness.  The great thing about Ford’s character is that he’s eccentric, a jackass, argumentative, and compassionate all at the same time.  Ford plays all these emotions to perfection.  By far his most powerful scenes are when he’s in a shouting match.  Whether it be with other scientists, CEOs, or Brandan Fraser’s character, you are glued to his performance.

Unfortunately the real weakness in the film is Fraser.  He just can’t keep up with Ford, and this is a problem because he is in almost every scene.  I’ve never been that impressed with Fraser.  He’s never sucked, but he’s never been great either.  I guess he was pretty funny in Airheads and Encino Man, although I don’t think he wants to hear that those roles were his crowning achievements.  There are a couple intense confrontation scenes with Harrison Ford where he shines, but I think this is more that Ford is carrying him in the scene.  This movie moves at a very quick pace.  Fraser’s character Crowley goes from work-a-holic business man to “I don’t care about anything but my family and I’ll risk anything” guy in like two seconds.  I just didn’t buy this quick turn, but I think a better actor could have sold it.  This character has to make some risky calls and big life decisions, and the performance just wasn’t there.  It also doesn’t help that his wife played by Kerri Russell is about as bland as a keyboard.  But Fraser doesn’t hurt the film a whole lot, and he really is bailed out by Ford in those critical scenes.

Aside from Ford, the other performance that really stands out is Meredith Droeger as Crowley’s 8 year old daughter Megan, who’s inflicted with the Pompe Disease.  This is a very important role, because the audience has to love the shit out of this character, and they do.  She delivers that cutesy funny dialogue with great timing, and there is one scene in particular where her and Ford’s character meet for the first time, which is very powerful.  That scene alone makes the audience think, “Okay, if she doesn’t make it, I’m going to be angry.”  And that’s all you need for this movie to work.

So this is a pretty solid film that you’ll get exactly what you expect from it.  There is nothing great about it though aside from Harrison Ford and Meredith Droeger.  It does at times feel like the director is just going through the motions.  The pace is also a little too fast.  It seems like a lot of the film’s intense conflicts get solved a little too quickly, whether it’s trying to raise money to get Stonehill’s research going or getting a company to invest in Stonehill, which limits the emotional impact a little bit.  But this is based on a true story, so it’s a little hard to really complain about that kind of stuff.  The movie is worth seeing, but you don’t need to sprint to the theaters.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

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