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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Extraordinary Measures

Title: Extraordinary Measures

Year of Release: 2010

Date Viewed: August 25th, 2010

MPAA Rating: PG

Time to get serious again. That's probably what went through the minds of both of Extraordinary Measures' male stars as they prepared for their roles. Coming off the heels of their respective fantasy adventure films, Inkheart and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, actors Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford return to the dramatic arts portraying real life medical heroes John Crowley (Fraser) and Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford).

Businessman Crowley and his wife Aileen (Keri Russell) are the parents of two adorable children who both suffer from the same disease; a muscle damaging condition known as Pompe (pronounced pom-pay). After one of them nearly dies, Crowley decides that he can no longer live wondering if his children will see tomorrow. Desperate for hope, he locates eccentric research scientist Robert Stonehill who claims to have a lead for a possible enzyme treatment that can save the lives of Crowley's children.

With budget issues as the forefront problem, the Crowleys are able to raise enough money from sympathetic parties by creating the first Pompe awareness foundation. Now with enough resources in hand and an unknown time limit, Crowley and Stonehill are left to compromise with venture capitalists in an effort to get the enzyme treatment approved and in the right hands. But this determined team soon realize that they may be their own worst enemies. Crowley's struggles with focusing on his day job and Stonehill's inability to get along with anyone may halt the progress to the point where they defeat themselves.

There is something about Fraser's onscreen personality that makes him such a likable hero. Even when he is not called upon to act goofy, he brings the right amount of awkwardness to every role so that we can watch him as a human instead of an actor. I don't think it's something you can teach. He just has it. That's why he is such a great choice for the role of John Crowley. It's easy to watch him with sympathy and a little comic relief.

Ford's portrayal of Stonehill is more of a no-nonsense performance. His comic relief comes from his frustration of dealing with the general public. When the conflict rises too high, Ford explodes into a ranting rage with a red face and a loud voice. Unfortunately, I'm not sure this humor is always intentional. Ford is great when he plays his angry role in a calm sadistic manner. When he screams at the top of his lungs, it's hard to take him seriously. I blame this on bad direction rather than an error for Ford. His acting weaknesses should have been covered up better.

The movie does a nice enough job setting up the Crowley's story and each family member's personality. There is a good chance much of it was fictionalized since the real children were only approximately four years old when they received treatment whereas in the movie they were around nine years old. It's typical "based on a true story" fallback. Take it or leave it.

The real heart of the movie should have been the excitement factor leading up to the discovery of the cure. A good portion of the audience will be robbed of this key emotion because of how it's presented. Instead of adapting the struggles for a general audience, the characters talk science or cite legal obstacles that get in the way of the treatment's production. If you're reasonably in touch with laws that make the world go round, you'll probably be able to follow it well enough. If you're not, it might be a challenge. It was not a wrong move to make the film smart and be taken seriously. It is however a bad move to distract the audience by having them think too much when they could be soaking in each important moment.

Andrea Guerra's musical score is quite moving, never being too quiet or too loud to compete with the onscreen events for attention. At the end though, something strange happens. It turns unexpectedly corny. So much that I half-expected the live studio audience from Full House to chime in with the long "Awwwww." The tone was right but it somehow sounded so wrong.

Extraordinary Measures is a film that doesn't make as much of a lasting impression as it should. And it's such a shame because the Crowley family deserve so much credit for what they've gone through and the doors that have been opened for other families. I don't want to turn anyone away from the film. Much of it is well done. You might like it. I just don't have enough confidence to stamp my seal of approval that reads "guaranteed for enjoyment" on the DVD cover.

How I wish I actually had one of those stamps for real.

Rating: 6

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