EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES, 2010
A drama centered on the efforts of John and Aileen Crowley (Fraser and Russell) to find a researcher (Ford) to develop a potential cure for their two children's rare genetic disorder.
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The worst enemy of drama is sentimentality. It's like a tiger trap just waiting for well-meaning, experienced filmmakers to come along and walk right into it. The most recent film to do so is Tom Vaughn's ("What Happens In Vegas") "Extraordinary Measures." John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) is living maybe the worst nightmare a parent can; watching two of his children slowly die from a degenerative genetic illness with no cure. His only hope is the groundbreaking work of an absent-minded university professor (Harrison Ford) with no money, no patience, and no social skills. It would be very, very easy to just write "Extraordinary Measures" off as a big-budget Lifetime movie. In fact, that's exactly what I'm going to do. "Extraordinary Measures" is just a Lifetime movie with more famous actors. It's a weepy, designed to build melodrama but terrified of confronting it, the kind of film where conflicts are always resolved by heartfelt confession.
A talented salesman, Crowley decides to make capitalism work for him, selling Dr. Stonehill's research to the private market in the hope that the sheer amount of money involved will speed things along before his children's time runs out. What follows is a hefty amount of corporate meetings and pep-talking as Crowley tries to surf the wave of Stonehill's truculence and ego, and corporations that he is surprised to discover put money before his children's well-being.
"Extraordinary Measures" is a medical drama built from the parts of other medical dramas, trying to get by on the sentiment on screen, but there's no effort put into making that sentiment matter. It's just there because the filmmakers need to fill up 120 minutes. Stonehill is mad and angry because he needs to be to come to loggerheads with Crowley when needed. Other than what he does we don't really know anyone about him.
In fact, the only character we're really offered to engage in is Crowley, who runs straight and true and about as shallow as you can imagine. You know everything you need to know about him in the first 5 minutes, and he never changes from there.
Maybe inspired performances could have made something out of this Hallmark of a film, and "Extraordinary Measures" does have an excellent cast, but inspiration is not the word of the day here. Mediocrity is. I like Brendan Fraser but he has yet to show real dramatic chops and he's not particularly tested by this film, nor is he alone in that. The film is filled with good actors being wasted. Only Ford comes through more or less intact as he is (surprise) completely believable as a crusty old guy.
"Extraordinary Measures" is a celery of a film; humorless, flavorless, mediocre through and through.