rated PG | starring Brendan Frasier, Harrison Ford, Keri Russell, Jared Harris | 1:46 mins
When one of their two children suffering from Pompae’s disease has a life-threatening attack, John Crowley (Brendan Frasier) tracks down Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford) whose theoretical research may hold the cure. Trying to bring the project from theory to reality flings John into the position of business investor, quantifying the acceptable risk of profit and loss for potential investors and Stonehill, a misanthrope, into one run-in with scientists after another. With John and Aileen (Keri Russell’s) children given a fatal prognosis within a year, they race against time, money and business protocols to get a lab-tested cure in time.
Movies like these make for hard reviews, because for all of their cheesy music, sleepwalking performances and unchallenging material, the heart is in the right place. I want a bit more in my drama then a story going through the motions up there on the screen, but many movie-watchers will probably take a movie like Extroardinary Measures at face value. Taking in that it is good because it tells a positive story of a father overcoming the odds to save the lives of his kids. Who doesn’t like that?
I critique Extroardinary Measures not because I’m a heartless machine who wants to come on here and make fun of Frasier’s dooey-eyed acting or the TV movie quality of the production, but because I want more emotion and authenticity out of it like I want more out of any movie. I want to be immersed in it, in the lives of the characters. In order to do that I want realistic conversations, not profunctory dialog that pushes the story forward. As you can see these are all very basic movie qualities that Measures lacks, shallowly put together using a tride-and-true roadmap to play to the lazy Saturday Lifetime movie crowd.
The life-threatening medical situation on paper sounds harrowing. Director Tom Vaughan (of the obnoxious What Happens in Vegas?) isn’t up the the dramatic task. He deflates the meat of the story to only the tent-pole elements. It’s a flat, uninspired movie. He takes sweeping passes at the characters, consequently leaving them all shallow vessels working toward the film’s solution. This really hurts Harrison Ford who plays the angry, misanthropic genius doctor with a frequently exploding temper. Without any context to his behavior it just makes Stonehill look like a jerk constantly thinking of himself, damanding people not mess with “his lab”, barking that he is “a scientist” and cares about research, storming out of meetings, and generally seems to dismantel every attempt to work together to save the lives of kids. Unless I missed a large section here, Stonehill’s behavior feels like an artificial construct to manufacture up some conflict.
Extraordinary Measures seeks to manipulate our emotions with the reality of the story, but cinematically has no clue how to do that. As a critique of the ghastly corporate practice of putting matters of life and death on a profit/loss scale Saw VI makes a more compelling case then this movie (while also succeeding as a thriller where Measures doesn’t). CBS Films’ first venture into the big studio movie game is exactly what you’d expect from the TV network’s name sake. It’s an awkward, anemic step with a final product that would probably pass as a one-hour client-based drama, but isn’t ready for the big screen.