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Extraordinary Measures

With so many worthy films bypassing theaters entirely to premiere on cable television these days, it’s painfully ironic for a product that resembles nothing so much as a made-for-television movie to be taking up space in theaters. Opening with the statement that it was “Inspired by true events” (a bland way of saying that what we are about to see contains as much fiction as fact), Extraordinary Measures dramatizes the story of John Crowley, a rising pharmaceutical executive who formed a biotech company in order to find a cure (or more accurately treatment) for his two young children who suffered from Pompe disease, an inherited condition that that disables the heart and muscles. Obviously you can’t help but sympathize with parents trying to save their children from an early death. But that’s a hurdle for a movie, not an asset: A film that does nothing but pull our strings may not be worthless, but it’s hardly praiseworthy. And that’s really all this most non-extraordinary film has going for it. Transparently plotted, it offers unnecessarily dull characters (if you’re going to invent characters, why not invent interesting ones?). Brendan Fraser is required to blubber on camera, while Harrison Ford (as the curmudgeonly research genius with the key to the cure) could do cranky in his sleep—and appears to be doing so. The general dullness of the movie is interrupted regularly by a cloying score that tries to ratchet up all the emotions the filmmakers couldn’t manage (but what would you expect from the director of What Happens in Vegas?)

In the 1970s and 1980s, movies about families racing to find cures for stricken loved ones were so common that they were known as “Disease of the Week” movies. It’s not that this theme can’t be the basis for a strong dramatic film—dig out the excellent 1992 movie Lorenzo’s Oil, with Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon. This one, to say the least, is not on that level.

m. faust

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