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dir Tom Vaughan
scr Robert Nelson Jacobs
prd Carla Santos Shamberg, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher
with Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford, Keri Russell, Jared Harris, Meredith Droeger, Diego Velazquez, Sam M Hall, Patrick Bauchau, Alan Ruck, David Clennon, Dee Wallace, Courtney B Vance
release US 22.Jan.10, UK 26.Feb.10
10/US CBS 1h45
Odd-couple chemistry: Ford and Fraser
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
The A-list cast raises this film above its unsophisticated TV-movie style, helped by the remarkable facts of the true story. The actors even manage to add nuance to the straightforward, over-sentimentalised writing and direction.
John Crowley (Fraser) is a manager at a pharmaceutical company who hears about the innovative theories of Dr Robert Stonehill (Ford) for the treatment of Pompe Disease, a variation on muscular dystrophy. John and his wife Aileen (Russell) have two wheelchair-bound children (Droeger and Velazquez) with the condition, plus an older son (Hall) without it. So they all have a special interest in Stonehill's work. But the eccentric doctor isn't so easy to get on board, mainly because he needs a lot of money to continue his research.
Fraser and Ford create enjoyable odd-couple chemistry as the passionate father and the resolute scientist, two men with very little in common beyond their interest in treating Pompe. As the story continues, they become entangled with a giant corporation, which gives the film a strong topical kick and also adds a somewhat stereotypical cinematic villain in Harris' corporate executive, who controls their work. But even Harris adds a level of interest to his character that makes him much more interesting than we expect.
On the other hand, Russell's fine performance is almost lost in the shuffle simply because her character is so sidelined by the script, which continually drifts into heart-tugging emotion. Much of this is actually earned by the vivid story and characters, but there's a fine line between heart-warming and sappy. And director Vaughan makes it clear from the start, with his sunny photography and constant shots of bravely smiling children, that he intends to cross that line frequently.
In other words, the film is as bland and simplistic as its title, but at least it captures a nice sense of people who tenaciously do what they know is right, while being both inspired and clouded by personal circumstances. In this sense, the film has a lot in common with Sandra Bullock's surprise hit THE BLIND SIDE, although that film has a sharp spark of real life that this film never quite manages to achieve.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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