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Movie Review: Extraordinary Measures

January 22, 2010
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There are lots of puns that could be mined from the title, but the truth is, Extraordinary Measures is a movie that is  much better suited to the small screen. It is a mediocre film at best, but I suppose some people might be find its story of triumph over insurmountable odds moving.  The crowd I saw the film with seemed to enjoy it a lot more than I did.

The film is loosely based  on the book The Cure, by Geeta Anand.  The book chronicles the true story of the Crowley family, their battle with pompe disease (a neuromuscular disorder related to muscular dystrophy), and their subsequent race to find a treatment  before two of their three children die from the disease.  Having one child with this horrible disease is horrible enough, having two is incomprehensible.

Brendan Fraser plays John Crowley, a father who risks his job, his family , and his sanity on a desperate gamble to find a treatment.  Late nights spent poring over the internet eventually lead him to a renegade scientist, Robert  Stonehill (Harrison Ford.)

After repeated attempts to contact the scientist,  John flies to confront him, and the two become reluctant business partners.  John uses his business savvy to raise venture capital investment money for a start-up biotech company helmed by Stonewell,  who works on accelerating the research behind an enzyme replacement theory to treat the disease.

The film suffers tremendously from a plodding pace. There is no way to make enzymatic development, cleaving, and extraction exciting, yet these concepts are tantamount to the story.  It is worse than watching paint dry. I have never checked my watch so many times for the first 90 minutes of a film.

When you are not being treated to a biochemistry lecture, you’ll get to watch pharmaceutical researchers wade through an ocean of red tape prior starting actual trials.  Still not sleeping?  Wait, there’s more-you get to see all the behind the scene antics in a board room regarding the fundraising and investment behind the product development.  Compelling stuff, I tell you.

I guess it is admirable that Ford (who also executive-produced) thought this tale worthy of a movie, but it is not.  He would have better served the cause with a PSA. I am sure everyone involved was well-intentioned, but the story just does not translate well to the big screen.  I hate to beat up on the movie given its source material, but it is just a mess.

Director Tom Vaughan (What Happens In Vegas) is not talented enough to elevate the material, and makes the puzzling decision to back-light almost every scene for the first 40 minutes or so.  It actually hurt my eyes, and washed out everything, giving the entire film an unappealing yellow pallor.

The acting is really unfortunate coming from such big marquee stars.  Ford is pissy, unlikable, and over the top, and when he yells (which is frequently) you just wish he would rein it in a bit. There are a few fleeting glimpses of Ford’s affable charm, but not enough to make the movie tolerable.

Fraser is equally bad, and let’s just say during scenes where he is upset, it is painfully apparent that he is acting.  There is no ease to his performance at all.  Keri Russell comes out of the movie unscathed, but mostly because she is barely present.

I’m a die-hard Harrison Ford fan, but I was really disappointed in the movie, and sort of embarrassed for everyone involved.

Rating 2/5

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