By Aaron Mesh
Any discussion of Extraordinary Measures must begin with an acknowledgement of That Scene—an exchange that has already achieved online notoriety. In the scene, first revealed in television advertising, tender-but-indomitable father Brendan Fraser is meeting with irascible-but-brilliant scientist Harrison Ford, and suggests there is still time to find a cure for the obscure disease that has stricken Fraser’s children, although they will have to work around the clock. “I already work around the clock!” Ford bellows.
This is indeed an extraordinary scene. I have just watched it again. But I am happy to inform you it is not the only time Ford yells during the film. In fact, Ford spends most of his screen time yelling or looking like he wants to yell. My personal favorite of these outbursts is when he screams at Fraser, “Why don’t you just put my balls in a jelly jar?”
Ford often seems annoyed to be in this movie, and his lashing out proves it.
We first meet Fraser carrying a bouquet of balloons while navigating the MAX train (the movie was set and filmed in Portland, Ore.). Fraser (a ballooned version) is late for his adorable daughter’s birthday party, though she doesn’t really mind because she is very busy dying.
She and her little brother have Pompe disease, a rare genetic disorder that weakens muscles and causes bodily organs to swell, thanks to a missing enzyme that can perhaps be restored with a formula pioneered by—yep—Ford. So Fraser travels to Nebraska, buys Ford a Budweiser longneck and talks him into starting an independent biotech lab with money Fraser does not have but will find so long as Ford doesn’t yell at the donors too much.
I probably do not need to tell you Extraordinary Measures is based on a true story. In real life, Fraser’s character lived in New Jersey, and the cure he funded with $27 million of venture capital came from the cells of hamster ovaries. I wish the movie had contained a scene where Fraser explained this breakthrough to his adorable children. It is also worth noting that Ford’s character is a composite of many research scientists, and I can only imagine how much more fun the film would be if it contained many Fords, all yelling.
And honestly, Extraordinary Measures is pretty enjoyable. As the first theatrical release from CBS Films, it is unfortunately shot in the network’s house style—symmetrically framed shots, with actors bathed in a gauzy angelic glow—but the performances are very good (though it is not pleasant to watch Fraser cry). If you want to see a movie about a family triumphing against the odds and glowing slightly, you are unlikely to do much better. If someone who has sex with you wants to see a movie about a family triumphing against the odds and glowing slightly, at least you’ll have angry Ford, and that helps a lot.
Directed by Tom Vaughan
With Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser, Keri Russell, Meredith Droeger and Diego Velazquez
Dreamcatcher, Regal Stadium 14