Rated PG for thematic material, language and a mild suggestive moment, 105 minutes
"Extraordinary Measures" is an overly ordinary, earnest film
There are some stories worth being made into a film, and the story of "Extraordinary Measures" is one of them: a man goes into a risky venture with a scientist, raising millions of dollars just in order to help find a cure for his own children, who have a rare genetic disease. In this case, the real story is more fascinating than the mediocre movie: a conventional, very sentimental and overly earnest drama that's barely a notch above a made-for-TV disease-of-the-week movie.
Brendan Fraser is John Crowley, a young executive with a pharmaceutical company. He and his wife Aileen (Keri Russell) have three children, of whom the younger two, Megan (Meredith Droeger) and Patrick (Diego Velasquez) have Pompe, a rare genetic disorder in which the patient has a lack of some key enzymes that affect muscle tissue. Crowley finds a crusty scientist named Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), who's a leader in research in the disease. The two men eventually form their own research company, which they sell to a drug manufacturer so they can get funding for more research. With Stonehill's knowledge of the disease and Crowley's business acumen, they form a unique partnership to find a cure for the disease.
"Extraordinary Measures" is an example in which the story itself is the main reason to see the film. For legal reasons, some details have been changed (Stonehill's real name is William Canfield, in Oklahoma, not Nebraska as depicted in the film) though the Crowley family details remains intact. Based on Geeta Anand's novel "The Cure," the film needlessly spend too time with medical mumbo jumbo relating to this enzyme and that enzyme and less time than building a strong emotional core, which this film lacks.
The film would've benefited from a less sentimental, more focused script and a stronger actor than Fraser playing the lead. He's overly (but a little forced) earnest, very likable and can turn on the tears quicker than Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," but he lacks a natural emotional verve to connect the audience with the story (plus Fraser, in my book, has always been a bit dorky). Veteran "Indiana Jones" actor Ford (who also co-produced the movie) underplays his role considerably, with less footage than Fraser but whose familiar iconic presence prevents this film from being a total cheese ball.
"Felicity" star Russell has so little to do she barely registers, and you should watch for a couple of baffling blink-and-you-miss-them cameos from a pair of '80s stars - Dee Wallace Stone (yes, the "E.T." mama) and Alan Ruck (otherwise known as Cameron from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"). Character actor Courtney B. Vance has a couple of the film's stronger moments as a frustrated parent of a fellow Pompe child.
"Extraordinary Measures" is decent, heart-warming but unmemorable entertainment that will be forgotten after you leave the theater. You'll need a few tissues here and there, but it still doesn't set itself apart enough from the standard Lifetime film (where this will likely and very easily play after it's released on DVD). In other words, "Extraordinary Measures" is far too ordinary to be a truly extraordinary film, lifted only by the warm presence of Ford.