© 2010 Ray Wong
The title and poster of Extraordinary Measures, starring two big-named action heroes, are misleading, to say the least. So is that the best the marketers can think of to promote this medical drama (which is loosely based on a true story)?
John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) is a business executive and a father of three; two of his children -- Megan (Meredith Droeger) and Patrick (Diego Velazquez) -- suffer from a genetic disorder called Pompe Disease. The average lifespan for a Pompe patient is about nine years. Following Megan's 8th birthday, she nearly dies. John decides he's not going to sit around to wait for his two children to die.
He does his research and discovers Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), a researcher at the University of Nebraska, is working on a breakthrough theory of enzyme therapy that may help treat Pompe patients. Stonehill is also an antisocial loner. Somehow, John is able to convince Stonehill to go into business with him to develop and market the medicine. John takes a risk by quitting his lucrative position to run the business with Stonehill, whose temper and eccentricity almost kill their chances before they even begin.
Meanwhile, Megan and Patrick are running out of time. Megan's 9th birthday is fast approaching and they still don't have a workable product for clinical trial. Stonehill's personality also alienates the people he works with. John must make sharp and ruthless business decisions to see to it that his children get to live, even at the expense of Dr. Stonehill's career.
Brendan Fraser (Inkheart) has gained some weight to play the everyday businessman who's driven by his love for his children to find a cure. His performance is down to Earth and understated. Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones) seems to have a good time playing a curmudgeon. However, he'd convince me more if he didn't look so neat and act so proper. Sometimes I feel like I'm watching Harrison Ford play doctor.
Keri Russell (August Rush) has a sympathetic role as Aileen Crowley, the mother of these sick children. However, her role is such a side note that she doesn't have much to do. Meredith Droeger (Train Town) is affecting as Megan, the older sibling of the Pompe kids. I really like her understated performance without any obnoxiousness, which a lot of child actors seem to equate as being "cute." Newcomer Diego Velazquez is so adorable as the weaker of the siblings. Sam Hall also tugs at our hearts as the oldest brother of the Crowley family. Jared Harris (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) has a brief but impressionable role as company man Dr. Webber. The real John Crowley also has a small cameo as a venture capitalist.
While the performances are uniformly good, the screenplay by Robert Nelson Jabobs (The Water Horse) is lukewarm, feeling more like a TV movie of the week than a feature. The plot unfolds almost by the book. At times, it tries too hard to tug at our heartstrings. We get it: children plus a fatal disease plus grieving parents equal heart-aching drama. There's no reason to beat us over the head with the sentimentality. The emotions seem more genuine when the characters are just going through their lives, trying to be a normal family.
Unfortunately, a story like this becomes predictable very early on. Granted, it's very interesting to see the struggles John Crowley and Dr. Stonehill go through. However, there's no doubt in our minds that they will succeed, so the suspense at the end (and a small "twist") doesn't really do much for the plot. Surprisingly, though, the story has more to do with corporate and business dealings than family drama. There's just not enough to hold our interest.
Under the direction of Tom Vaughan (What Happens in Vegas), the pace also seems slow. Despite the drama, conflicts and stakes, the story seems to slog along with lethargy. There isn't enough going on in the film, or surprises, to keep the energy level up. As an observation of corporate cultures, it also lacks the sharpness and freshness of something like Up in the Air.
As important as the message and backstory are, Extraordinary Measures is a mediocre drama. The fact that the marketing folks decided to give it an "action-thriller" title and poster means that even they didn't know how exactly to market this film -- more like desperate measures to me.
Stars: Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford, Keri Russell, Meredith Droeger, Diego Velazquez, Sam Hall, Jared Harris, Patrick Bauchau
Director: Tom Vaughan
Writers: Robert Nelson Jacobs (based on book by Geeta Anand)
Distributor: CBS Films
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material, language and mild suggestive moment
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 6.7 out of 10