Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Extra ordinary

Race-for-the-cure vehicle offers nothing more than a TV movie

Posted on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 4:00 AM

**
Extraordinary Measures
Studio: CBS Films
Rated: PG
Cast: Harrison Ford
Director: Tom Vaughan
WorkNameSort: Extraordinary Measures
Our Rating: 2.00

I don't hate your sick kid. People seem keener than ever on taking a critic to task for dismissing a movie about a real illness that their loved ones may suffer, as if they're one and the same. I don't doubt that Pompe disease is a rare but debilitating disorder that affects many families, but I also don't doubt that their battle deserves a better dramatic treatment than it receives in the well-intentioned and exceedingly obvious Extraordinary Measures.

The first film on CBS Films' slate and wholly worthy of a world broadcast premiere on that network instead, Measures follows John and Aileen Crowley (Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell) as they struggle to find a cure for the enzyme deficiency that afflicts two of their three children. Enter Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), the curmudgeonly scientist whose theoretical work could hold the key to a cure, so long as John can defeat Stonehill's crusty demeanor and raise the capital to hold proper trials.

Cue all manner of impossible odds, personal motives, corporate friction and everything else that the titular actions might overcome within the span of two hours, before ending with that sleepy Eric Clapton tune about changing the world. It's a movie ready-made for commercial breaks; save, of course, for Ford's frequent use of 'Bullshit!â?� (Hey, the best of intentions will get PG-13 language into a PG film, no problem.) Even the opening credit to Geeta Anand's book, titled The Cure, lets viewers know right off the bat that everything's going to be OK.

Director Tom Vaughan (What Happens in Vegas) doesn't do anything to challenge that safe preconception, establishing a predictable ebb and flow of victories and obstacles. For every shot of Fraser's bedridden son, we get glimpses of his wheelchair-bound daughter, eager to speed past any challenger. If a doctor gives an impossibly obnoxious prognosis, then you can bet the Crowleys will get to spit it back in his face. And every time Ford throws a fit, we also see him glimpsing a token from said young girl and remembering that it's more about the kids than his damn pride. Ford's gruff act is nothing new, but Fraser is giving earnest and sincere a try for the first time in a long time, and he simply does not wear it well.

So why bother rehashing what Lorenzo's Oil did better nearly two decades ago? Well, because that film wasn't about this disease, and while a book or a website could help put a human face on an ailment, it can't put Brendan Fraser or Harrison Ford's faces on it. Chances are, if you're willing to see this, you'll cry because a real-life kid somewhere has a real life now, and a real family that's endured similar tribulations couldn't be more grateful for such a breakthrough. That's all fine, and it's worth infinitely more than a measly star rating can measure. But if I was crying when the lights came up, it's only because no one has yet found a cure for the common TV movie.

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