The medical drama "Extraordinary Measures" has been marketed as another "Blind Side," a true story about quiet heroism, doing the right thing and overcoming great odds. There's much pulling of the bootstraps and milking of the tear ducts on the way to an ending that only an old grump (yes, we're looking at you, Harrison Ford) couldn't love.
But imagine if "The Blind Side" had focused on the legal processes necessary for Michael Oher's adoption instead of the football and spunky Sandra Bullock and you have an idea of the strange path "Extraordinary Measures" takes on its road to inspiration.
The movie, based loosely on Geeta Anand's book "The Cure," tells the fictionalized story of the Crowley family, whose two youngest children are afflicted with Pompe disease, a metabolic disorder that leads to muscle degeneration and short life expectancy.
Shortly after celebrating daughter Megan's (Meredith Droeger) eighth birthday, John (Brendan Fraser) and Aileen (Keri Russell) learn that their girl won't live much longer. The doctor tells them to take comfort that her suffering will soon be over and to look at her demise as a "blessing."
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Cue close-up of Fraser's face as he tries mightily to affect an expression of steely resolve.
So far, so predictable. John goes looking for the one man he believes can help save his children, researcher Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford). The two form a business partnership. Crowley quits his job, deciding not to passively accept his children's fate but "roll up his sleeves and fight."
Who doesn't love a good paperwork scene?
Since we know "Extraordinary Measures" isn't going to end with Crowley kneeling by his daughter's grave, the movie's success depends on how well the filmmakers convey the family's journey. Director Tom Vaughan ("What Happens In Vegas") and screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs ("The Water Horse") make the strange choice of focusing on funding and paperwork instead of the human drama.
So we spend a lot of time watching Ford and Fraser making investor presentations. We see Ford and Fraser bickering over strategy. Then there's more presentations. More lab work. More bickering. Much talk of enzymes.
With Stonehill, Ford may well be playing the closest version of his true self he has ever committed to screen -- dour, serious, anti-social and, let's be honest, a little bit dull. He makes Stonehill the angriest old movie man we've seen since Clint Eastwood in "Gran Torino," only without the charisma and self-awareness that Eastwood brought to that role.
Given the movie's monotony, it's small wonder that Ford decides to occasionally punctuate the stillness by screaming at the top of his lungs. One over-the-top example has already gone viral, the scene where Ford bellows "I ALREADY WORK AROUND THE CLOCK!" to a startled Fraser.
Fraser brings earnest sincerity to the role of the heroic dad, but all the lip quivering in the world can't overcome the movie's turgid presentation.
"Extraordinary Measures" marks the first release from CBS Films, a new production company created by the television network. Next time out, they might want to deliver a film that veers a little farther from the kind of fare people can watch at home for free.
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