Extraordinary Measures

Susan Granger’s review of “Extraordinary Measures” (CBS Films)


    If this reminds you of a TV-disease-of-the-week tearjerker, that’s because it’s the first theatrical release from CBS Films, a division of the broadcast network that seems to be testing whether audiences will pay for cable-caliber melodramas at the box-office.

    John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) is a pharmaceutical executive at Bristol-Myers Squibb. He and his wife Aileen (Keri Russell), have three children. Their oldest son (Sam M. Hall) is fine, but their two younger children, eight year-old Megan (Meredith Droeger), and six year-old Patrick (Diego Velazquez), suffer from a rare, genetic form of muscular dystrophy called Pompe’s disease. They live on respirators and in wheelchairs. Medicine offers no treatment and no cure.

    Terrified that they may die at any moment, John’s persistent Internet research leads him to an eccentric University of Nebraska professor, Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), who believes he has isolated an enzyme that has the potential to arrest the painful progress of Pompe’s disease, which generally kills children before they reach the age of 10. In desperation, Crowley impulsively agrees to finance Stonehill’s neuromuscular drug therapy experiments and sets up a nonprofit foundation for that purpose. But time is running out and Crowley needs an influx of investment from venture capitalists. So he proposes selling the firm and Stonehill’s findings to a big biotechnology company in Seattle, a concept that does not sit well with the cantankerous, rock music-loving doctor, even though it will propel the experimental drug to a first trial much faster.

    Inspired by real events and adapted from “The Cure,” a 2006 nonfiction book by journalist Geeta Anand, screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs has fashioned Ford’s somewhat one-dimensional character as a composite of several different, real-life scientists. Scottish director Tom Vaughn (“What Happens in Vegas”) never rises above a straightforward, expository TV-style – with little shading or subtlety – while Andrew Dunn’s cinematography can only be described as tedious.

    On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Extraordinary Measures” is a formulaic 5, satisfying only in its revelations about how medical research is conducted and financed.