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Determined Dad Defies Odds in “Extraordinary Measures”

Caitlin Ferraro | Friday, January 15, 2010

Art imitated real life last night at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center where the film “Extraordinary Measures” premiered a week early to audiences. The film centers on the story of John Crowley and his fight against a rare illness known as Pompe Disease. Crowley, who graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 1992, worked together with Dr. Robert Stonehill to discover a cure and save his two youngest children.

The film stars Brendan Fraser as Crowley, Harrison Ford as the brilliant but underappreciated Dr. Stonehill, and Keri Russell as Crowley’s wife Aileen. Ford is also an executive producer of the film.

Notre Dame had the honor of premiering the film a week earlier than the nationwide release date due to their collaboration with Crowley and the Notre Dame Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases. The Center was also featured this past year in the Notre Dame “What Would You Fight For?” ads during football games.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Geeta Anand wrote a profile of Crowley in The Wall Street Journal, which she eventually expanded into a book. The 2006 work, entitled “The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million — And Bucked the Medical Establishment — In a Quest to Save His Children” helped to inspire the film. Now, Crowley himself is writing a personal memoir about his experiences.

“Extraordinary Measures” is an appropriate title for the film as it follows the journey of Crowley in his pursuit of a “special drug,” the name he affectionately gives medicine when explaining it to his children, to prevent the potentially fatal enlargement of their organs. And Crowley truly does go to extraordinary lengths. Fraser, who tends to play ridiculous, goofy characters, instead succeeds at the serious role of the determined father who will literally stop at nothing to save his children’s lives.

When his daughter Megan (Meredith Droeger) nearly dies, Crowley suddenly decides to give up his hard-earned and successful career to do everything he can to save his children. He seeks out Dr. Stonehill, a difficult scientist who has never actually created a drug, only theories, but his research is far more advanced than anyone else in the field. Crowley must be quite persuasive in order to convince Dr. Stonehill to work with him, but they quickly form a formidable duo.

The two men must work together to overcome many different obstacles that take shape in the form of staggering costs, powerful pharmaceutical companies and their difficult executives. But the largest hurdle of all is the race against time since the life expectancy for children with Pompe Disease is 9 years. When the film starts, Megan has just had her 8th birthday.

The film is being promoted as similar to other inspirational dramas like “Erin Brockovich” and “The Pursuit of Happyness,” but unfortunately it does not quite live up to those films. While the story is an incredible one that is indeed inspiring, it can also be a bit over the top at times. The daughter brings a few laughs, but almost every other moment is filled with high drama. This is understandable, since the film centers on a life or death situation, but it can be daunting to the viewer. Luckily, due to the quality of acting of the three stars and the adorable child actors, the film is safe from being just another Hallmark movie.

“Extraordinary Measures” is a well-produced film that displays the astonishing determination and perseverance of not only the characters of Crowley and Dr. Stonehill, but also all families and children affected by Pompe Disease. If you can appreciate the absolute dedication of a father who wants to save his children, then this film is for you.

Rating: 3 Shamrocks

Contact Caitlin Ferraro at [email protected]