Screen Rant’s Paul Young reviews Extraordinary Measures
There are some sure fire ways to tug on a viewer’s emotional chord – animals in trouble (The Cove), people overcoming adversity (The Blind Side, Precious) and children with life-threatening illnesses or debilitating handicaps. Extraordinary Measures deals with the latter of those three by telling the true story of Megan and Patrick Crowley, an eight and six year-old brother and sister who have Pompe Disease, and the steps their father John Crowley took to try and save their lives.
Pompe Disease is a form of muscular dystrophy that most often affects children from birth, causing their muscles to under-develop, leaving them bound to a wheelchair. Another effect of this disease is that the childrens organs enlarge and because of this, most children infected with Pompe don’t live past the age of 9.
The films picks up with John’s oldest child, Megan, turning eight. She is a typical eight-year-old girl: she loves pink, hanging out with friends, playing with her older brother, John Jr., and her favorite subject in school is P.E. Early in the movie, shortly after her birthday party, Megan has respiratory problems and is rushed to the hospital. There is no cure for Pompe and no real treatment. The only thing doctors can do is try and treat the symptoms. John and his wife Aileen, played by Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell, are frustrated parents who seem to be dealt an emotional blow at every turn.
In one scene, that may or may not have happened in real life, the Crowley’s are told by the doctor that there is nothing else the hospital can do to save their daughter. “You should look at this as a blessing,” the doctor says coldly, trying to find the words to comfort two obviously distraught parents. “Her suffering will be over,” he adds while Mr. Crowley looks like he wants to punch him in the face. Even if that didn’t happen, every parent in the audience can relate to the frustration, anger and sense of dread that is felt when one of their children is hurt or is seriously ill.
The best line of the movie comes shortly after when Megan pulls through and the same doctor delivers the good news to which Mr. Crowley replies, “Guess we dodged the blessing, huh?” This brings me to Brendan Fraser’s acting. I’m so very glad to finally see him in a serious role again. Not since School Ties has Fraser delivered such a believable performance. I fear, though, that he has suffered a bit from too many “goofy face” roles because a few times during the film he got the same look when trying to be serious.
John Crowley decides he can’t sit around and just “wait for his children to die,” so he takes goes to “extraordinary measures” (one of many instances), and quits his well-paying job at a drug company in order to convince Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford) to take his theoretical enzyme therapy and make it a reality. One problem – the research is very expensive and they need to raise a great deal of capitol just to get started. Crowley is a very determined father and after several failed attempts of gathering investor support, he manages to find a group of venture capitalists willing to put down the $10 million needed to fund the research. A few months later, after generating some buzz in the enzyme drug world because of Stonehill’s lab work, they get bought-out by a large drug firm with very deep pockets.
This is where Crowley realizes that big corporate backing is a necessary evil he must endure if his children are to ever get better. Everybody involved with the production of a working enzyme has a different agenda: Crowley wants his children to get treated, Stonehill wants to prove his enzyme treatment is the best, and the big corporation of course just wants to make money. Crowley is like a fish out of water in the big corporate world with little to no clout. He has no idea what to do with the research because he isn’t a scientist. He can’t make policy decisions as an executive because the enzyme corporation only gave him a job as a condition of buying Stonehill’s company.
I won’t give away the rest of the film but needless to say it tries very hard to make the audience feel empathetic towards the Crowleys and bring tears to your eyes. I’ve read some of the other reviews floating around the net and a lot of them are down on this movie for being too safe and formulaic – and to a degree they are right. However, I think the movie needed to be safe because it involves children in a real life situation.
I liked Extraordinary Measures but I think I’m a bit biased because I have friends with a three-year-old son who has brain damage and is confined to a wheelchair. I had a hard time disconnecting my thoughts and feelings from him and only associating with Megan and Patrick Crowley but you know what – that’s OK. The director and actors where able to tap into my emotions and make the movie watching experience distinctly personal for me.
Extraordinary Measures isn’t a perfect movie but if you like to emotionally invest in a film, or, like me, you have a personal situation that allows you to attach to the story, then I’d recommend watching it in theaters. If not, you’re better off waiting for the DVD.