These “Measures” are extraordinary in name only
Somewhere inside the film “Extraordinary Measures” is indeed an extraordinary story, but the finished product on display is marred by a feeble screenplay, weak acting, and a lack of genuine drama. For an average “Disease of the Week,” film we can always turn to the Lifetime channel. But this story has merit, so it’s a shame it isn’t a stronger adaptation of the true events that inspired it.
Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell star as John and Aileen Crowley, parents of two young children suffering from a genetic form of muscular dystrophy called Pompe disease, which claims the lives of its victims in their childhood. When one of the children nearly dies, John gets serious about finding a cure. He quits his successful job and drives to Nebraska to make a plea to a university biochemist, Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), who has some cutting edge theories about a cure.
The Crowleys form a foundation to raise the money necessary to pursue the research, which eventually leads to Dr. Stonehill getting his own lab, and then selling the resulting drug to a major pharmaceutical manufacturer.
Trouble is, the movie skims the surface of these major challenges, which on their own could have been developed into tension-filled plotlines or even standalone movies. The screenplay never demonstrates any of the arduous difficulties the Crowleys must surely have confronted as parents of kids with serious, disabling maladies.
Brendan Fraser can’t inhabit his role as the uber determined father-his dramatic moments seem forced and even on occasion oddly goofy. He needs to get past the slight roles of his most recent films like “Inkheart” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” and his few moments in “Crash” intimated some potential for more serious work, here he’s not up to it here. As for the legendary Ford, he continues to have problems choosing good scripts that allow him to successfully transition to the noble, elderly statesman like Paul Newman did so well in “The Verdict” and “Road to Perdition.” Here, Ford’s character is easily the most interesting of the leads, but he winds up merely seeming crotchety.
Russell’s faithful wife role affords little depth or opportunity to shine beyond crying at all the right times.
When a minor role, performed by a journeyman actor (in this case the excellent Jared Harris, son of the late Sir Richard) upstages the other superstar actors, something is amiss.
The cast, at least on paper, indeed has firepower. But despite a heart-tugging story, “Extraordinary Measures” is a misfire and better suited to afternoon cable.
Rated PG for thematic material, language and a mild suggestive moment.