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Clear and Present Disease

MOVIE REVIEW
Extraordinary Measures (2010)

UCP-00120
CBS Films

“Extraordinary Measures” is not so much directed as processed, hewing closely to the cut-and-dry inspirational template. It’s a paste job down to the tiniest fibers of its being, with a soundtrack that contains Eric Clapton’s “Change the World” and lots of stock preaching about making miracles happen. The narrative effectively blends human interest with an engaging insider’s look at the biotech bureaucracy, but laziness is the operative mode here.

Brendan Fraser stars as John Crowley, an everyday Oregonian married to Aileen (Keri Russell) and blessed with three cute kids. Unfortunately, two of them have been stricken with the rare, deadly Pompe disease, for which there’s no cure. Undeterred, John happens upon Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), a gruff, unconventional University of Nebraska researcher conducting groundbreaking research in the field. To fight the disease, they round up investors and assemble a team to start a firm of their own, free from tight university budgets.

Shot in a mind-numbingly conventional, master to medium to close-up style without a hint of innovation, the movie reeks of pedestrianism. It’s the first picture from the new CBS Films label, one that CBS President Les Moonves reportedly had a hand in editing, so it comes as no great surprise that it so concretely hammers its notes in the broadest possible fashion. All the stereotypical beats are hit, including scenes with heartless doctors and moments of family bonding given a golden hue. The narrative progresses in a neat arc, resolutely building through the Crowley family trials to an uplifting payoff.

Even the casting — Mr. Fraser as the determined nice guy pop, Mr. Ford as the loner grouch — is predictable and uninspired. No one plays against type and neither character behaves in a way that stands out or surprises. At the same time, the picture ignores the details of the children’s experience; the Crowley kids serve as props for the adult dramatics. Those wind through the intricacies of the real-life obstacles facing academic research in modern, corporate America, but the film never deviates from an obsessive plot-driven focus. The dots always end up connected in the tidiest fashion, with every treacly moment pounded hard. Miracles can happen; dreams can come true; and movies can turn amazing stories into something slightly better than run-of-the-mill fluff when their makers decline to make an effort.

EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES

Opens on Jan. 22 in the United States and on Feb. 26 in Britain.

Directed by Tom Vaughan; written by Robert Nelson Jacobs, based on the book “The Cure” by Geeta Anand; director of photography, Andrew Dunn; edited by Anne V. Coates; music by Andrea Guerra; production designer, Derek R. Hill; produced by Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher and Carla Santos Shamberg; released by CBS Films. Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes. This film is rated PG.

WITH: Brendan Fraser (John Crowley), Harrison Ford (Dr. Stonehill), Keri Russell (Aileen Crowley), Jared Harris (Dr. Kent Webber), Courtney B. Vance (Marcus Temple), Meredith Droeger (Megan Crowley), Diego Velazquez (Patrick Crowley), Sam M. Hall (John Crowley Jr.), Patrick Bauchau (Eric Loring) and David Clennon (Dr. Renzler).

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