Extraordinary Measures

There really has to be some sort of consumer protection for moviegoers.  It should be illegal to charge first run movie ticket prices for a movie like “Extraordinary Measures,” a cloying, nauseating, unconvincing, over-simplified, disease-of- the-week TV film that would have trouble meeting the criteria of a “Lifetime Original Movie.”  Amazingly the film boasts a popular cast: Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford and Kerri Russell.

Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford ponder the trajectories of their careers and wonder how they ever got involved in such a bad script in "Extraordinary Measures"

“Extraordinary Measures” states that it was inspired by true events, which basically allows it to throw credibility to the wind.  Fraser plays John Crowley, a father of three.  Two of his kids have Pompe disease, a form of muscular dystrophy.  Early in the film Crowley’s daughter has an eighth birthday party.  Later that night Crowley is doing research on Pompe disease and discovers that the average life expectancy for those afflicted is nine years.  Since his daughter just celebrated her eighth birthday we get the connection.  Director Tom Vaughan however chooses to hit us over the head with it by having Crowley then look over at his daughter’s birthday candle, in the shape of an eight, which somehow has jumped onto his desk.   The gesture is typical of the “wink, wink” contrived way in which the story is told.  Consider the following: Crowley works in the pharmaceutical industry.  Now would someone who works in pharmaceuticals and, as a result, presumably has access to all sorts of medical information really not find out that his daughter has a nine-year life expectancy until her eighth birthday?  Wouldn’t Crowley’s research have uncovered this fact much sooner, say maybe by his daughter’s first birthday, allowing him eight years to find a cure?  Of course it would.  The reason Crowley makes the discovery on his daughter’s eighth birthday is the film’s forced attempt to give itself a “ticking clock,” as in “Oh no, he only has a year to find a cure and save his daughter.”

Crowley’s research leads him to Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford), a crusty old doctor who has been working on a Pompe disease cure.  Ford grumbles his way through the movie as a personality challenged, crabby, world-weary, eccentric genius frequently in search of a men’s room who spits out argumentative one-liners.  Ford’s performance is a tiresome carbon copy of other “seen it all” characters played by the actor.   In fact, Ford barks “Get out of my lab,” or some variation on this statement at least twice, unintentionally and comically invoking his signature line from “Air Force One” (1997) “Get off my plane.”

Kerri Russell has a stagnant role as John’s wife.  Her part could have been played by just about any other decent actor as could the parts played by Fraser and Ford.

The dialogue is trite, obvious, laugh-inducing and filled with blatant exposition.  Even though the story is based on a non-fiction book by author Geeta Anand, “The Cure,” events feel as it they are happening more for the convenience of moving the story along then from any real sense of story-telling.  Furthermore a movie about science should make the science interesting and accessible, which the film never does. “Extraordinary Measures” was produced in part by CBS Films and it is painfully obvious that the film is only receiving a token theatrical release, prior to clogging up the home video and cable TV pipelines, because of its name cast.

Extraordinary Measures, director Tom Vaughan 2009, CBS Films, 105 minutes, rated PG

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on February 2, 2010, in What were they thinking?. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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