It's always a bad sign for a film critic when you're stopped on the street by your moviegoer readers with comments such as "Have you seen such and such a film? It LOOKS horrible!" or "Wow, that sure looks like a television movie of the week."
Having happened no fewer than six times during this week leading up to the nationwide release of "Extraordinary Measures," a film starring Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell about an up-and-coming corporate bigwig named John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) and his wife, Aileen (Keri Russell), whose two small children are diagnosed with a fatal disease and so recruit an eccentric biotech researcher named Dr. Stonehill (Harrison Ford) in an "against the clock" bid to find a cure and save their children before their time runs out.
Sounds like a TV movie of the week, doesn't it?
Indeed, it is.
Inspired by a true story, as all these films are, "Extraordinary Measures" is the debut film from CBS Films, a feature film division of the television network. The connection will seem obvious within the film's first few minutes as "Extraordinary Measures" has all the weepy ingredients of a Lifetime Network flick complete with repetitive shots of poor disabled children who smile their way through their perpetual pain. By the end of the film, it's the audience that's in perpetual pain as the likable Fraser simply doesn't have the range to pull off the complex role of John Crowley and Ford too often jumps way over the top into scene chewing histrionics that will likely elicit more giggles than gasps.
The script is based upon a nonfiction book by Geeta Anand, however, screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs fills "Extraordinary Measures" to the brim with unfathomably boring and repetitive scenes of Crowley and Stonehill arguing, Crowley and Stonehill arguing and Crowley and Stonehill arguing.
Have I mentioned that Crowley and Stonehill argue?
When the two aren't arguing, they spout medical jargon rather unconvincingly and more than once I found myself wanting to shout at the screen to Fraser "Watch out for that treeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"
Directed by Tom Vaughan, who failed to impress despite the box-office success of "What Happens in Vegas," "Extraordinary Measures" is further proof that Vaughan hasn't quite gotten ahold of that directorial instinct that tells you when to shout "Cut!" and when to let a scene linger. Here, scenes are allowed to hold to the point of boredom and, on the flip side, Vaughan occasionally seems to cut a scene just as the emotions are starting to take hold.
Fraser, who has made a nice career out of family friendly films, is certainly convincing as a dedicated father but lacks the emotional range to sell the film's most powerful scenes, though he does provide an interesting contrast to Ford's over-emoting verbal swirlies. Russell carries herself fairly well here as the dedicated wife/mother, though she's clearly an afterthought in this two-person drama with a few interesting cameos by the likes of Dee Wallace, Alan Ruck, Courtney B. Vance and a few other familiar faces.
Andrea Guerra's original score is classic made-for-tv movie music therapy, though Andrew Dunn's lensing is fine throughout.
Ford, who served as an executive producer for the film, clearly saw the potential that lies within the intriguing story, unfortunately the story is given only surface treatment and the characters never really develop beyond cardboard caricatures. This is not to say that "Extraordinary Measures" won't have its fans, as both Fraser and Ford fans will find some enjoyment in the film and those who appreciate stories about overcoming insurmountable obstacles may even shed a tear or two.
Sadly, "Extraordinary Measures" contains and extraordinary story but, in the end, is a disappointingly ordinary film.