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STUDIO: CBS Films
RUNNING TIME: 106 Minutes
• Deleted Scenes
Indiana Jones and the Crippling Neuromuscular Disorder of DOOM
Screenwriter: Robert Nelson Jacobs,
Director: Tom Vaughan
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford, Keri Russell, Jared Harris, Patrick Bauchau, Alan Ruck, David Clennon, Dee Wallace, Courtney B. Vance
Biotech executive John Crowley (Fraser) and his wife Aileen (Russell) are good parents to their two children, both of which are afflicted with Pompe, a disease that renders bodies useless and shortens lives significantly. John reaches out to research scientist Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford), who has been making headway in creating a cure for the condition. Despite Stonehill’s skepticism and surly disposition, he agrees to work with Crowley in developing the treatment. All the while the children’s condition worsens…
The CBS Films production logo at the front of this film perfectly serves as a harbinger of things to come. Unlike things such as The Back-Up Plan, Faster, and Beastly this film is pitched directly toward the same quadrant that turns into their network nightly; older folks slowly fading into dementia. Personally, I haven’t watched anything on the net in years, give or take a Late Show. Needless to say, I don’t think this movie was intended for me.
Once Extraordinary Measures begins proper, its intentions are clear almost immediately. Gauzily lit with orchestral music swelling over the soundtrack the film introduces us to John Crowley (Brendan Fraser, looking here more like Brendan Gleeson) demanding that a new product should “taste like bubblegum.” Only bad things can come from a screenplay that is this precious even before it introduces the dying children.
Some unintended humor is found in the first appearance of the wheelchair-bound Megan (Meredith Droeger), which finds her excitedly whizzing about the family home on her ninth birthday, whizzing around the family home. This surely is meant to introduce this disorder to the audience in a fun manner, but for me evoked memories of the wheelchair gun sketch from “Jon Benjamin has a Van.” As is typical for films of this genre, the viewer is distracted from a sickly child with a tube sticking out of her neck with overt precocity. And that’s seemingly the only dimension Megan and her similarly afflicted brother Patrick (Diego Velazquez) are given. This results in child performances that alternate between being flat or flat out grating, and don’t have the heart-tugging crutch of the actors being sick themselves. The actor playing Patrick has to lie down wordless for 95% of his scenes. That had to be an audition only Tobias Funke could fail at.
The brazen manner in which the filmmakers use these kids as a ticking clock is also a bit jarring. Soon after Megan’s birthday, she has a health scare John and his wife Aileen (played by Keri Russell, bringing her own boring take on boring) have a conversation with a doctor in which it’s revealed that no child afflicted with Pompe has lived beyond ten years. There might as well have been a Mission: Impossible sound cue played. John, who has been studying the disease for years himself, decides he’s not going to just sit idly by and let a disease that’s been incurable for years stay that way for 10 more months. Thus enters Dr. Robert Stonehill, cantankerous research scientist already trying to find a cure.
In theory, the role of Stonehill seems to be a good for Harrison Ford at this point of his career. After decades of starring in some of our favorite movies of all time, his leading man luster began to fade with stuff like Six Days, Seven Nights and Random Hearts. Then Hollywood Homicide happened. When his comeback was largely met with complaints that he was out of charm and not a believable action hero, he seemed resigned to work as a character actor.
That’s presumably why he co-produced this film himself, to give himself a meaty yet smaller role that will change the public’s (and the Academy’s) perception of him. There are glimmers of a Ford that cares, especially when he plays up Stonehill’s mild eccentricities. Any effort he makes is in vain, as the script gives him practically nothing interesting to do or say. There’s a moment where Crowley and Stonehill are pitching the doctor’s research to venture capitalists. In a better movie, this would be the scene where Stonehill gives a hyper-charismatic or extremely intelligent monologue regarding his work. Instead, we get a montage with more of that damned swelling orchestral music while he explains his work. This laziness is indicative of the whole enterprise.
That’s not all that Ford has to contend with. His character shares many of his scenes with an intensely doughy and weepy Fraser. His John Crowley is portrayed as a good, if not borderline unstable, father, what with leaving in the middle of meetings to fly to another state to meet Stonehill, then offering him millions of dollars that he has no way of paying back. It’s the type of role that relies on bleary-eyed soberness to cover-up the bizarre character actions, and Fraser has no problem going to this well practically every other scene. Unlike Ford’s presence in the film, which just makes you wish he picked better projects, Fraser’s work here makes you wished he picked no projects…ever.
Their relationship provides a bulk of the rest of the story, which is interspersed with scenes of an increasingly desperate Aileen and increasingly dead children. Crowley eventually gains the capital to start up his own pharmaceutical company, with Stonehill as the lead scientist, but that’s not to say things go smoothly. Stonehill proves to be just as difficult to work with as it was to secure his participation. Since this is a PG rated film, “difficult to work with” translates to blasting overplayed rock music from the late sixties, early seventies and only having conversations if it involved screaming a whole hell of a lot. To make matters worse, research scientist Dr. Keith Webber (Jared Harris, trying his damnedest) is throwing a wrench into any and all progress made.
This brings me to the final aspect that slightly bothered me about the film. At a point in the screenplay, it’s hinted that there is some ambition to make this film about the pharmaceutical industry and how it both helps and hinders those in desperate need for medical treatment. Now a family oriented film like this doesn’t have or even need a treatise on the ills of the industry, but distilling it all into a cliché’d “villain” that is there just to provide a hurdle to our protagonists both condescends to the audience and really turns the children’s disease into something more trivial.
As I finished up this review, I took another look at the Amaray case for the DVD, and noticed a pull-quote that compares this film to The Blind Side, a movie that’s similar in tone, but about a quadrillion times more offensive and loathsome. Another quote states that this will make you “believe again the power of the human spirit.” My pull-quote would be closer to this; “Extraordinary Measures will let you witness the homogenization of children dying of a horrific disease. Just as fun as Hoodwink’d 2!”
There’s not much in the way of special features here, other than EPK’s featuring the true story of John Crowley and some deleted scenes. None of these deleted scenes feature notorious elder-stoner Ford getting high and falling asleep in one of the kid’s wheelchairs.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars