What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that despite its PG rating, this Harrison Ford medical drama features the kind of mature themes and strong language (including "s--t," "bulls--t," and "a--hole") usually associated with PG-13 movies. The movie focuses on a couple dealing with their children's life-threatening genetic disease; consequently, several scenes depict sick kids who are near death (and their inconsolable parents) -- which might be too heavy for tweens and young teens. The film's overall messages, however, are positive, as viewers see parents doing everything they possibly can to find a way to save their dying children.
What's the story?
John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) is a successful pharmaceutical marketing executive with a loving wife (Keri Russell), three young children, and a lovely home in Portland, Ore. But all isn't idyllic: The Crowleys' two youngest kids, 8-year-old Megan (Meredith Droeger) and 6-year-old Patrick (Diego Velazquez) have a rare, incurable form of muscular dystrophy called Pompe disease, which has a brutally short life expectancy of nine years. Desperate to find a cure or drug that will help his children, John contacts ill-tempered research scientist Dr. Stonehill (Harrison Ford), who lacks the proper funding to get his Pompe research turned into an FDA-approved drug. John and Stonehill start a biotech company together, fundraise, and ultimately get bought out by an even bigger firm, where they work tirelessly to get a Pompe medicine on the market ... all before it's too late for the Crowley children.
Is it any good?
There's nothing wrong with sugary-sweet medical dramas based on true stories, but, for the most part, they belong on television, where treacly, feel-good stories about parents who won't quit on their sick children are quite effective. Think of EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES as a two-part episode of Grey's Anatomy (minus the sex) or an especially well-cast Lifetime movie. What's usually lacking in those made-for-TV medical dramas is a rude, loner scientist a la Ford's Dr. Stonehill, who treats everyone poorly and prefers to work alone with classic rock blaring so loudly that the other lowly researchers can't concentrate. Ford's curmudgeonly doctor is a composite of several scientists, which makes his off-putting personality all the more incomprehensible; he seems to have given birth to a performance by Tommy Lee Jones and Al Pacino, only it just doesn't work.
Fraser and Russell are appropriately optimistic and determined as the parents of Pompe-stricken children, and Droeger is adorable as a sweet and fierce little fighter. Director Tom Vaughan also perfectly cast the supporting players, like David Clennon (Once and Again and thirtysomething) and Jared Harris (Mad Men and Fringe), who expertly play a venture capitalist and pharmaceutical executive, respectively. But Vaughan forgot to tone down Ford's performance into a relatable character. Yes, this is a touching film, but it's predictable and, in the case of Ford's character, unbearable. Occasional laughs and tears aside, there's nothing memorable about what should be a remarkable story.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about how the kids' illnesses affect the Crowley family. Do the family's reactions and interactions seem realistic? How do movies usually portray characters who are seriously sick?
Dr. Stonehill is a genius but not a team player. Do you consider him a positive role model?
The movie is based on a true story. How much of it do you think is accurate? Why might filmmakers change some of the facts?