By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
The first nominee for Worst Movie Idea of 2010 is Extraordinary Measures, for pairing the most successful action star ever with his heir apparent, in a movie without a single car chase or gunfight.
Indiana Jones would punch Harrison Ford for taking this gig, and bullwhip Brendan Fraser for not bringing his Mummy game.
Before explaining, let me say that Extraordinary Measures is "inspired by" a true story deserving to be told. John and Aileen Crowley have two children stricken by the rare Pompe neurological disorder. After being informed their kids wouldn't survive long, they successfully raised millions of dollars for therapy research, perhaps a cure.
Heartwarming stuff but the Crowleys and Pompe sufferers deserve better than Extraordinary Measures. Good intentions don't always result in good movies, and the road to hell is paved with plenty like this one.
Fraser plays John Crowley, relying upon stock gestures to display emotion; the determined loosening of a necktie, the sobbing collapse against a wall before sliding to the floor, and furrowing his brow when anyone says the impossible can't be done. Fraser isn't an expressive actor, to be sure, but next to Keri Russell's drowsy turn as Aileen Crowley, he's another Olivier.
Ford looks uncomfortable doing anything the role of cranky Dr. Robert Stonehill demands, from faking understanding of scientific equations on a whiteboard, to sideways glances at sick children suggesting Stonehill isn't a total grouch. Ford marks his character's territory by barking lines like: "Nobody's gonna tell me how to run my lab!" and "I already work around the clock!" Indy and Han Solo would simply punch out someone.
Liberties are taken with movies based on fact, so I'm fairly certain that the real Crowley's didn't have it as easy as Extraordinary Measures presents. Both afflicted children (Meredith Droeger, Diego Velazquez) look chipper except for the wheelchairs, and Aileen doesn't get overly upset about anything. Director Tom Vaughn won't allow too much darkness in his feel-good story, even if it's authentic.
In fact, Courtney B. Vance playing a father with a Pompe child conveys more about frustrated fear that the Crowleys knew in one scene — actually one line of dialogue — than the rest of Extraordinary Measures combined.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.