Extraordinary Measures is the first theatrical film from CBS Films. At least it’s the first one that I know of, especially the first one with the star power that it’s attracted and the opening it’s receiving. In that first sentence alone, you know all you need to know about this movie: it’s practically got “made for TV” written all over it. It’s clocked in at 105 minutes, at a non-offensive PG rating, and has melodrama after melodrama piled on top of each other. Sprinkle in a fair amount of usages of the word “shit” and a couple funny moments, and you’ve got something that’s specifically targeted to people who loved The Blind Side. (One of the reviews they’re pimping out even say so.) All of that aside, it’s not the worst film you’ll see this year. It is actually, surprisingly watchable.
The film was inspired by the true story of John Crowley (Brendan Fraser, trying on his new niche of playing ‘The Dad’), a pharmaceutical executive who hooked up with researcher Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford, playing a mixture of Han Solo, Dr. House, and Indiana Jones) in order to develop treatment for Pompe Disease. Pompe is a rare genetic disorder that causes the body to improperly process certain sugars, thus causing them to store in the patient’s body structure and eventually cause decay and death. Think of it as similar to, but not quite Multiple Sclorosis. Two of the Crowley family’s young children are afflicted with the disease, and his research into the matter causes him to meet the good doctor and begin the journey this movie depicts.
And depict it it does. As a matter of fact it depicts the shit out of it. Just when one adversity has been dealt with, someone either says something funny or gets shouty and another adversity pops up in its place. We go through the gamut in this film: asshole executives, greedy investors, Mother Nature on her period, and even just plain old marital strife. (Side note: Why is it that Keri Russell is hotter now than she ever was as a teen pop sensation?) Everything that can be thrown at the protagonist is thrown at them, and they somehow overcome it all. At times it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a movie, it feels like you’re jumping hurdles.
Yet somehow Ford and Fraser somehow emerge from this picture better off than they did from the last entries of their respective action adventure franchises. We see the Harrison Ford we’ve come to know, love, and wish would come back so he didn’t have to face off against UFOs. We also get to see part of the Brendan Fraser that was so loved in Gods and Monsters, as well as the smile we were so used to from The Mummy. Make no mistake about it, when the film plays “the emotional card” (and at some points, “the funny card”) it plays it to the best of its abilities. It’s just that when it plays “the melodramatic card”, which it does frequently, it really falters.
Extraordinary Measures is an inspirational film with a positive message. Then again, so was The Blind Side, and you’ll never get me to see that. The only reason I saw this film was because my father had scored free screening passes to a local screening. How did he do that? He ate at the local Chinese buffet for lunch that day, which as we all know is teeming with the elderly. My father fell victim to a shrewdly targeted market research experiment that bet good money that those who flocked to The Blind Side for counter programming that wasn’t as loud as Sherlock Holmes, as visually stimulating as Avatar, or as liberal as Up in the Air; would pay their hard earned Social Security funds to see this picture.
As if that wasn’t enough of an indication as to what barrel of fish they were trying to shoot at with this film, they attached the trailer to the Jennifer Lopez
disaster “comeback” film The Back-Up Plan. Sure on the outside, the two films don’t seem like they have that much in common, but there’s two very big common denominators: they were both made by CBS Films and they both would have been more fiscally responsible ventures had they been slated to premiere on CBS. This could have been a highly rated “Hallmark Hall of Fame” telecast, instead of a destined to underperform box office bomb. One that I cannot with good conscience recommend spending money on.