Extraordinary Measures


Brendan Fraser as John Crowley
Harrison Ford as Dr. Robert Stonehill
Keri Russell as Aileen Crowley
Meredith Droeger as Megan Crowley
Diego Velazquez as Patrick Crowley
Sam Hall as John Crowley, Jr.
Jared Harris as Dr. Kent Webber
Patrick Bauchau as Erich Loring
Alan Ruck as Pete Sutphen
David Clennon as Dr. Renzler
Dee Wallace as Sal
Courtney B. Vance as Marcus Temple
Ayanna Berkshire as Wendy Temple

The worst enemy of drama is sentimentality. It’s like a tiger trap just waiting for well-meaning, experienced filmmakers to come along and walk right into it. The most recent film to do so is “Extraordinary Measures,” directed by Tom (“What Happens In Vegas”) Vaughn.

John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) is living maybe the worst nightmare a parent can; watching two of his children slowly die from a degenerative genetic illness with no cure. His only hope is the groundbreaking work of an absent-minded university professor (Harrison Ford) with no money, no patience, and no social skills.

It would be very, very easy to just write “Extraordinary Measures” off as a big-budget Lifetime movie. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. “Extraordinary Measures” is just a Lifetime movie with more famous actors. It’s weepy and designed to build melodrama but terrified of confronting it, the kind of film where conflicts are always resolved by heartfelt confession.

A talented salesman, Crowley decides to make capitalism work for him, selling Dr. Stonehill’s research to the private market in the hope that the sheer amount of money involved will speed things along before his children’s time runs out. What follows is a hefty amount of corporate meetings and pep talks as Crowley tries to surf the wave of Stonehill’s truculence and ego, and he is surprised to discover that corporations put money before his children’s well-being.

It’s just… hollow. It does things not because they make any sense in the wake of what’s come before or out of dramatic necessity but because it seems like that’s what’s supposed to happen. Stonehill is a professor in Lincoln, Nebraska so naturally when he gets off work he drives to a local rib joint where everyone calls him “Doc.” He annoys his uptight corporate co-workers–they must be uptight, well, because they work for a corporation–by playing The Band while he works.

“Extraordinary Measures” is a medical drama built from the parts of other medical dramas, trying to get by on the sentiment on screen, but there’s no effort put into making that sentiment matter. It’s just there because the filmmakers need to fill up 120 minutes. Stonehill is mad and angry because he needs to be to come to loggerheads with Crowley when needed. Other than what he does we don’t really know anyone about him. In fact, the only character we’re really offered to engage in is Crowley, who runs straight and true and about as shallow as you can imagine. You know everything you need to know about him in the first 5 minutes, and he never changes from there.

Maybe inspired performances could have made something out of this Hallmark film, and “Extraordinary Measures” does have an excellent cast, but inspiration is not the word of the day here. Mediocrity is. I like Brendan Fraser but he has yet to show real dramatic chops and he’s not particularly tested by this film, nor is he alone in that. The film is filled with good actors being wasted. Only Ford comes through more or less intact as he is (surprise) completely believable as a crusty old guy.

“Extraordinary Measures” is a celery of a film; humorless, flavorless, mediocre through and through.