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Medicine is Money

Movie Title: Extraordinary Measures (2010)
Spoilers: No

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Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser play a biomedical researcher and a businessman in Extraordinary Measures. Based on the emotionally moving true story, a sharp Harvard Business School graduate (Fraser) finds two of his children on death's door due to a fatal genetic condition called Pompe disease. He travels to meet a brilliant scientist on the verge of a potential cure (Ford) in hopes of saving their lives against all odds.

The film is based on a true story, but for more than one reason. The Crowley family and those families that came together in struggle against the devastation of the disease are only half of the story. The other half is the monotonous meetings, the draining discussions, the tiring scientific minutia and finance details that had to be hashed out before a life-saving drug could ever have a chance at emerging.

The potential profitability for collecting on the sick and the dying who will pay to receive treatment to (hopefully) save their lives and the lives of their loved ones had to be in order before a drop of serum could exist. It costs a lot to live, and it costs a hell of a lot more to stay alive—more so for the unfortunate among us. Life is only good for you if YOU are good for IT...and if you have money. Hey, don’t hit me—I’m just the messenger!  

And that's what Extraordinary Measures is about. It's about one determined and talented businessman making sacrifices and dedicating a huge chunk of his life – not to mention risking the financial well-being of his family – to raising money so that teams of scientists could work to bring to clinical trial a drug that can save lives. It’s the money that determines who lives and who dies. Only strangers to the drug industry are unaware of that fact.

Ford is Dr. Robert Stonehill, an eccentric scientist, a genius way ahead of his colleagues in the field of Pompe disease research. He loves loud classic rock music, and he's hard to get along with, not by any stretch of thought a team player. He doesn't make friends easily and sees nearly everyone as a money-hungry competitor seeking to infringe on the freedoms of his research.

Ford’s is just distracted enough of a character to make an impression, but he missed the mark in owning his character, though not by much. The truth has already been fudged by making the real-life Asian doctor into the Caucasian Robert Stonehill, so why not “hippie-fy” Ford a little for the part? Maybe give him some distance between himself and the refined white man characters he so often plays? Put on some Danzig shirts when not in the lab and throw in some oddball non-conformist political views with even more social hang-ups, and this could have gone further.

As grumpy and as kickative as the Stonehill character is, he'll be a sight to see when in his twilight years at some place like Waterford Assisted Living Community. With always a preoccupied and distant stare, Stonehill will drive a wedge in any good conversation by saying at the drop of a hat: “Don’t interrupt me.” But I remember Hahn Solo having a disagreeable side to him in a similar way. It is not Ford, however, but Fraser who does the better job here.

Frasier, as John Crowley, with wife Aileen (Keri Russell), both fit the bill. You nearly forget those shameful days of “The Mummy” and that Frazier was probably the most annoying class clown ever. Frasier’s face says it all, except here where his acting gets a well deserved “thumbs up.”

His children, Megan and Patrick (Meredith Droeger, Diego Velazquez) are typical on-screen child presences, which is to say, they were made primarily with the intention of tugging at your heartstrings than they were to win over audiences on the merits of their acting or part contributions.

Based on the book “The Cure” by Geeta Anand, there is something to be said for Extraordinary Measures. It is not a scintilla less than a potent tearjerker, but it isn't much more than that either, and that happens to be the film's only besetting flaw; it is never distinguished from a Plain Jane, made-for-TV movie that would consume two hours out of a boring night at the conclusion of a humdrum weekend.

(JH)

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Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars) 
Rated: PG (for dramatic exchanges and situations)
Director: Tom Vaughan
Summary: John and Aileen Crowley work with a scientist to find a in efforts to find a cure for their two children's rare genetic disorder.
Starring: Brendan Fraser “John Crowley,” Harrison Ford “Dr. Robert Stonehill,” Keri Russell     “Aileen Crowley,” Meredith Droeger “Megan Crowley,” Diego Velazquez “Patrick Crowley,” Sam Hall “John Crowley, Jr.” Jared Harris “Dr. Kent Webber,” Patrick Bauchau “CEO Erich Loring”
Genre: Drama / Biography
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