Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Indiana Jones of Medical Research

Extraordinary Measures Noble but Unexciting

It’s fairly easy to write a review when a movie terrible or great. Writing about a film that sucks can be great fun.
When a film falls somewhere in the middle it is much more difficult.
An example is “Extraordinary Measures,” currently in theaters.
“Extraordinary Measures” is a disease-of-the-week movie with noble intent and a wry performance by Harrison Ford as a renegade researcher. Think of Dr. Robert Stonehill as the Indiana Jones of medical research.
Nice guy John Crowley (Brendan Fraser in low-key-but-impassioned mode) seeks out Dr. Stonehill at his Nebraska lab in desperation.
It’s little Megan’s (Meredith Droeger) eighth birthday, and it could well be her last if some kind of cure can’t be found for the rare genetic disease she and her brother have. Crowley’s beautiful, dutiful wife Aileen (Keri Russell) is beside herself with worry.
Dr. Stonehill is doing some radical genetic experiments that show promise down the line, but in the cautious, profit-driven world of American pharmaceutical marketing, it can take years and years of research and testing before a medicine can be approved by the FDA.
Dr. Stonehill is a crank and a loner, but he is also a fighter who is contemptuous of Big Medicine. You just know the good doctor is going to rise to the occasion and kick some pharmaceutical ass.
Like “The Blind Side,” “Extraordinary Measures” is “inspired by true events.”
However, medical research is not quite as exciting as football or the Memphis ghetto.
So Scottish director Tom Vaughn pulls at the heartstrings while trying to drum up urgent suspense over the fate of the kids.
The young woman who saw the film with me was misty-eyed through much of the film. I asked her if she had a cold or allergies and she sad no.
So yes, “Extraordinary Measures” is effective emotional catharsis for some people, but not so much jaded film critics who have seen it all before.

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