In Extraordinary Measures, Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford Save the Children


John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) is,
for the time being, the doting father of three kids. One son and a beatifically-smiling
daughter could go any day; both are wheelchair-bound and on respirators,
afflicted with a degenerative genetic disorder called Pompe disease.
Shaken up by another emergency-ward close call, Crowley quits his marketing
job to make a pilgrimage to Nebraska and corner Dr. Robert Stonehill,
a university medical researcher working out an enzyme treatment for
Pompe (mostly by writing on a dry-erase board). Executive producer Harrison
Ford plays Stonehill as a “loose cannon”—that is, he drives
a beat-up Ford Ranger, cranks up Boomer FM gold in the lab, and scares
off sources of potential research funding with his irascible prickliness.
Extraordinary Measures
is best when dealing with the connection
between family life and economics, personal passion and impersonal institutions
(the background is mostly labs, hospitals, and corporate parks). Business-savvy
Crowley, frantic for a chance to save his kids, convinces Stonehill
that he can raise funds for a biotech start-up to put the underfunded
doctor’s theories into practice. To work toward the greater good of
an expedited cure, both men will adapt—and compromise—themselves
to the rules of the game, as Crowley, for an infusion of corporate cash,
has to forget his personal stake to talk about “acceptable
loss” and pitch the “highly lucrative” potential of a
possible treatment. (Extraordinary Measures, billed as “Inspired
by a True Story,” has made its own compromises to screen drama—there
is a real John Crowley who might basically descry his own life here,
but no real Stonehill.)

This is the first release by CBS Films,
and looks it. “Did you see Harrison Ford has a TV show coming out?”
asked a friend who’d seen a prime-time commercial for Measures.
Given the Movie of the Week lighting, the mistake is understandable.
Andrea Guerra’s emotionally-instructive score gunks up every crack and
corner in the movie. But even while winning the generic title sweepstakes,
Extraordinary Measures
works according to its terms. Fraser is open
and appealing, and Ford, his acting mostly isolated in the right corner
of his mouth, does well enough with a secondary part. Stonehill’s curmudgeonliness
is even fitting an actor who’s evinced no visible pleasure in being
on-screen for a decade or more.