Sunday, January 31, 2010

Extraordinary Measures (Review)

     I almost didn't see "Extraordinary Measures."  I almost allowed a lot of poor critical reviews stop me from going to see a well done story of courage, hope, human drama, and just the right amount of some very heartwarming humor.  I'm glad I don't always listen to the critics.

     "Extraordinary Measures," based on a book and actual events, is the story of a father, John Crowley, played by Brendan Fraser, who is desperate to find a cure for two of his children who are dying of Pompe disease.  He finds Dr. Robert Stonehill, played by Harrison Ford, an eccentric researcher whose work is radically different and advanced.  Crowley begins to raise money for Stonehill's research and eventually gets the good doctor in a position where he can make real progress on an actual treatment before Crowley's children die.

     I've heard that the book "Extraordinary Measures" is based on, as well as the movie its self, doesn't quite stick to the facts and gives too much credit to John Crowley and not enough to Dr. William Canfield, the real life researcher that Ford's character is based on.  I don't know how true this is or exactly how accurate or skewed the facts are, but that doesn't really matter.  "Extraordinary Measures" is a story based on true events, not a historical bio pic.  Even though the character of John Crowley is supposed to be the hero, and he is in some very important ways, when he is not being a loving, dedicated father who will do anything to save his children, he's still a corporate executive, a stuffed suit, and not all that likable, and despite the fact that the character of Dr. Stonehill seems to have to be pushed to overcome himself in order to do the right thing, his character seems far more human than Crowley and, ultimately, is the real hero.  It likely doesn't help each of these characters much that Brendan Fraser, who is a fine actor,  pales next to the incredible acting talent of seasoned veteran Harrison Ford.  I do sympathize with a father trying to save the lives of his children, but that doesn't make him, or his character a likable person.  Perhaps these actors do a better job in their respective roles than they are given credit for.  In any case, the story is supposed to be about how a father's determination saved his children, but what comes through is that large pharmaceutical companies are heartless and driven solely by profit, a father will be as much of a jerk as he has to be in order to save his children, and  a brilliant and kind-hearted, yet odd, doctor did everything he could to save one man's children, and many others, from death at the hands of a terrible disease.  (That and Meredith Droeger is absolutely adorable as a sick little girl who won't give up.) 

     "Extraordinary Measures" may not exactly be the truth, but is makes for a good story and a bittersweet, good time.  Besides, I'm sure The History Channel will come out with a more accurate account, and we can all watch that and be informed.  Until then, just feel good that there's one less disease killing children.

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