Nearly a decade ago, critics marvelled when Mad Max tyro George Miller managed to take Lorenzo’s Oil—a heroic tale of disease research that would traditionally air as the Saturday Night Movie—and make something distinctly, nearly overflowingly cinematic out of it.
The same, alas, cannot be said for Extraordinary Measures, another true-life tale of a father fighting against all odds to produce the cure for a fatal disease afflicting his kid (or, in this case, kids). Clearly this teary medical saga has been misdirected from its natural boob tube home and into the nation’s gogoplexes—not something you’d expect, surely, from the first theatrical outing from newly launched CBS Films.
Taking a break from his usual green-screen challenges, Brendan Fraser leads an overqualifed-for-prime-time cast as John Crowley, a business exec with two kids diagnosed with Pompe disease, a neuromuscular disorder both severe and then-uncurable. Taking matters into his own hands, he locates one Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), a pioneering, underfunded and notoriously prickly scientist laboring over the disease. Together they hatch a deal: Stonehill handles the science, Crowley handles the business of getting funding in a field that still needs to turn a profit.
Much like My Sister’s Keeper, Extraordinary Measures doesn’t feel the presence of children facing an almost-certain death is enough to soil hankies. There’s even a quasi-villain—Jared Harris’ coldly practical exec—whose chief characteristic is he’s annoyed by crass emotional appeals. Needless to say, the score is pure goop and, as the film gains in length, the gratutious visits to Fraser’s cute kids increases from every 15 minutes to every other scene. But it does spend more time than typically required on the nuts and bolts of Fraser and Ford’s quest, with plenty of board room scenes and sputterings of big-for-plebeians medical words. (Never mind that many of the film’s events are puffed-up inventions by screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs. Stonehill is a composite character, for one.)
More importantly it has Ford, who hasn’t allowed himself to be roused from his grumpy stupor in eons and isn’t about to do it for some glorified TV movie of the week. His performance is his by far pissiest: monstrously unpleasant, temperamental and stubborn in its refusal to play ball, in all senses of the term. In other words, he’s the cure for this kind of movie. Well, not really. C