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Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010 01:11 am

Extraordinary Measures, a genuine story of hope


In Extraordinary Measures, Harrison Ford plays Dr. Robert Stonehill with Brendan Fraser as John Crowley.

Based on the book The Cure by Geeta Anand, Extraordinary Measures is an earnest account of how one family attempts to cope with every parent’s worst nightmare. John and Eileen Crowley’s children, Megan and Patrick, were diagnosed with Pompe disease when they were fifteen and nine months old, respectively. At the time, there was no cure for the disease, but what was known is that the afflicted suffer from a severe lack of muscle tone as well as enlargement of their heart and livers. Those stricken rarely live long enough to see their second birthday.

As any parents would, the Crowleys do all they can to help their children. While doing research, John (Brendan Fraser) uncovers the name of Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), a strong-willed scientist who’s working towards a cure for Pompe disease. The only problem is that the doctor refuses to jump through the necessary corporate hoops to get the funding he needs to complete his work. So, after tracking him down, John does what any affluent father would — he starts his own bio-tech firm in order to help Stonehill find the cure that will save his children.

The film’s first half-hour has a schmaltzy, movie-of-the-week feel to it. Director Tom Vaughan seems intent on delivering a cinematic Hallmark card espousing the virtues of perseverance rather than a gripping medical drama. However, once Ford makes his entrance, the film rights itself. The role of the crusty Dr. Stonehill, who attempts to hide his compassion behind bluff and bluster, fits the veteran actor like a second skin. With raised voice, angry eyes and emphatic finger wagging, Ford reminds us of what a powerful, sincere actor he can be. His genuine approach to the role salvages the film, giving it a passion it would have lacked without him.

Surprisingly, he and Fraser make for a compelling screen duo. As the impassioned father, the actor is able to put his straightforward persona to good use. As they battle skepticism, corporate bureaucracy, and the clock, Fraser and Ford give their quest determination and fire, keeping the film from being an insincere melodrama. Instead, Extraordinary Measures proves to be a genuine testament of hope that doesn’t mind wearing its heart and passion on its sleeve.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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