Directed by Tom Vaughan. Starring Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford, Keri Russell, Jared Harris, Patrick Bauchau, Courtney B. Vance, Meredith Droeger, Diego Velazquez, Sam Hall. (2010, PG, 105 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Jan. 22, 2010
It’s unsurprising that the first movie released by the new film production outfit CBS Films is something that looks and tastes an awful lot like a TV movie of the week. A fatal juvenile disease, heroic parenting, a recalcitrant collaborator, a ticking clock, and near-insurmountable odds give Extraordinary Measures all the dramatic arcs necessary for this type of thing. Yet the very predictability of those arcs and their outcomes dampens that which, under other circumstances, would be invigorating and inspirational. We would all like to believe that we would act as heroically for our children as John and Aileen Crowley do. They are the parents of three children, two of whom suffer from Pompe disease, a form of muscle and organ deterioration that generally kills its victims before adolescence. John Crowley is an executive at Bristol-Myers whose star is on the rise when he casts his job aside to throw in his lot with Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford, who is also serves as an executive producer), a researcher whose theories appear to have the best chance of solving the disease’s riddles. Together they form a new biotech company and set about the arduous process of bringing a new drug to the testing and market phases. Of course, Crowley has nowhere near the money needed to make the venture work, and Stonehill is an idiosyncratic talent who doesn’t play well with others. The filmmakers are smart to keep the focus of this drama on the adults rather than the sick children, though there’s still a bit too much of the Crowleys’ perky eldest daughter, Megan (Droeger), who wants little more than for the “special medicine” to come in pink pill form. Everyone works tirelessly to race the clock and move the man-made obstacles littering their path to success. No parent is more selfless than Crowley; he represents the best hope for ourselves under similar conditions. However, the ideal world of this movie, which is inspired by real experiences recounted in a book by Geeta Anand, leaves out numerous practical details, foremost being how the Crowleys handle the stated $40,000 of monthly medical fees which were previously picked up by insurance once the breadwinner leaves his corporate job. Practicalities such as these can be big impediments – even to the superheroically inclined. Most of the time, inspiration is simply not enough to get you through the hard times.