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Extraordinary Measures (2010)

Rating: 7/10

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG

John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) and his wife Aileen (Keri Russell) are the real life inspiration for this story of a young couple and their three kids—Megan (Meredith Droeger), Patrick (Diego Velazquez), and John Jr. (Sam M. Hall)—two of them battling a fatal disease that will most likely kill them before they turn ten. Crowley decides that he simply can’t sit by and watch his children die, so he finds Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), a doctor with the theories and knowledge to create a drug that might just save lives given time and funding and big enough scissors to cut through the world’s red tape.

In the grand tradition of inspirational medical dramas revolving around some sick child, Extraordinary Measures was born to mine the emotions of its audience. Wisely, though, even with its obvious “hoping for a miracle premise” and its exponential emotional quotient of TWO sick children, it never goes too syrupy or weepy.

Fraser is, at least, better here than in that atrocious Furry Vengeance, but he overacts and underacts at all the wrong times somehow throughout, though he does a nice job with the more subtle family-time moments; Russell is actually the more consistently believable parent. Ford is over the top quite often, but that’s how it’s supposed to be, and the child actors are all good without being cutesy or overly precocious. What sets this apart somewhat from others like it is that the kids are never seen as objects of pity—we know that even if the enzyme is found and the drug works, they’re still going to be in wheelchairs. That seems OK, because even with their challenges, they seem like basically normal kids who aren’t overly inspirational or saintly—they do childhood stuff and bowl and play and hang with their friends. There’s no magic pill on the horizon—the drugs aren’t going to cure them, just give them the chance to live their lives longer and a little more fully. So while the movie itself is slightly mediocre, the whole idea that maybe, just because you’re a kid in a wheelchair doesn’t mean your death might be a blessing (an actual statement by a well-meaning doctor) is a concept worth exploring. Granted, there’s some slow going every once in a while, and at times it feels like an overgrown TV movie that managed to snag some A-list actors, but overall, Extraordinary Measures is still interesting enough to overcome the inevitable predictability of its usually dreary genre.

It's Got: Disabled kids who are actually realistic, Keri Russell and Harrison Ford, A refreshing look at disability

It Needs: Better acting from Fraser, A little more time with Patrick, More Ford yelling at people

DVD Extras Two featurettes: “Meet John Crowley” (short doc of the real Crowley and his family); "Extraordinary Measures: The Power to Overcome” (about 10 minutes of interviews and clips); Deleted Scenes DVD Extras Rating: 5/10


Kids in wheelchairs and the search for enzymes may not sound like entertainment, but this based on a true story movie isn’t too sappy to be entertaining.