“Extraordinary Measures”: Not Even Good Enough for Premium Movie Channels
The latest in potentially cloying medical movies, which I avoid like they’re pandemic H1N1, is the newly released Extraordinary Measures, starring the dramatically limited Harrison Ford* and the doughy, but generally likeable, Brendan Fraser. The story, at least on its surface, is reminiscent of 1992’s Lorenzo’s Oil, in which parents labor valiantly against the rigid medical community (or in the case of EM, the pharmaceutical industry) to find a cure for their children’s very rare afflictions.**
Because I’m as likely to see this movie as I am the what-they-show-in-hell Patch Adams, there will be no review based on actual viewing. Instead I rely on the consumer services of critics from major US newspapers.
The reviews, like the movie itself, are more or less predictable. The overarching theme: EM is cable TV, but just with Harrison Ford.
From Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune: “[Y]ou can find more provocative medical crises on TV every week of the year, albeit without this film’s headliners.” “The big confrontations between Fraser and Ford…feel strangely rote…they are, in fact, written and performed at Emmy-highlights-reel pitch.” Two stars.
James Verniere of the Boston Herald: “If I had a nickel for every time Ford’s craggy-faced, grumpy old man growls ‘Get out of my lab’ at someone in the film I’d have a dollar.” But Verniere calls the cast, especially the supporting actors, “Extraordinary.”
Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer: “[S]lack, well-meaning disease-of-the-week drama of the sort one might encounter on the Hallmark Channel.” Rickey likes Ford (he’s “a gas”) but finds Fraser “stiff and visibly uncomfortable.”
Robert Butler, Miami Herald: “‘Measures’ is competent enough. However, it’s not the least bit inspired…[I]t feels as if it has been carefully assembled not to reveal some truth so much as to push certain dramatic buttons for its audience.”
Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times: “[A] sort of uplifting drama that neither touches the heart nor tests the brain—a film that wouldn’t make the Showtime…or HBO quality cut.” Sharkey says that Ford does a “credible job” but implies that Fraser is out of his league. (And if the league standard is Harrison Ford, for God’s sake, change careers.)
A. O. Scott of The New York Times is, perhaps, the most gracious: While he finds a paradox in a “movie about a medical breakthrough” that “is not especially eager to break new ground of its own,” Scott says the film delivers an education about the process of medical research. “This is the main reason that ‘Extraordinary Measures’…rises above some of its made-for-TV trappings.”
* The last and only time I found Harrison Ford interesting in a dramatic role (and it was a bit part) was in The Conversation.
** In Lorenzo’s Oil, the disease was adrenoleukodystrophy; in Extraordinary Measures, Pompe disease. The major difference between these 2 stories is that the treatment developed in EM, Myozyme (alglucosidase alfa; Genzyme), is FDA approved.
An earnest-looking Brendan Fraser and a gruff-looking Harrison Ford in a still from Extraordinary Measures.