'Extraordinary Measures'

Pic doesn't reach beyond its smallscreen genotype as a disease-of-the-week telepic.

Extraordinary Measures” takes reasonable care to enliven the fact-based story of a father’s endless negotiations with the medical establishment on behalf of his terminally ill kids. Yet this first CBS Films release doesn’t reach far beyond its smallscreen genotype as a disease-of-the-week telepic, despite the star power of Brendan Fraser as the desperate dad and Harrison Ford as an eccentric, ornery researcher. Pic has its pleasures, chiefly Fraser’s charming turn as sleepless John Crowley, whose work inspired the source material. But, talky and didactic over too long a stretch, “Measures” is unlikely to find a common cure at the B.O.

Unimpeachably well-meaning in the manner of so many race-for-the-cure dramas, the pic at least succeeds in shining a light on the horrors of Pompe disease, a rare malady that causes severe muscular deterioration in every part of a child’s body. With two of their three kids battling Pompe, pharmaceuticals executive Crowley and his wife, Aileen (Keri Russell), are urged by a doctor to view the evidently impending deaths of 6-year-old Patrick (Diego Velazquez) and 8-year-old Megan (Meredith Droeger) as a “blessing,” given the painfulness of the disease.

Upon hearing this patronizing advice, Dad springs into action, impulsively flying from his family’s home in Princeton, N.J., to Lincoln, Neb., where Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford, who also exec produced) has been working to prove Pompe’s vincibility in theory, if not, sans funds, in practice.

A fancifully penned composite of real-life researchers, Ford’s middle-aged Stonehill bears the brunt of the pic’s bid to inject some flair into fairly dry proceedings. Given to blasting classic tunes by the Band and the Dead while crunching equations and klutzily disconnecting calls, the stubborn researcher — unreachable except at the local bar, where he sips Bud and watches the tube — is fairly convincing except during the handful of times when he gets mad and yells, the character pushing well past Ford’s low-key acting parameters.

For a while, as levelheaded Crowley and temperamental Stonehill collaborate on the Herculean task of bringing a life-saving enzyme to market, the movie gets a mildly infectious kick out of showing that the younger man is vastly more mature than his reluctant partner. But the conceit grows tiresome as surly Stonehill reaches his umpteenth realization that Crowley — whom he nicknames “Jersey” — has been right to play beat-the-clock by establishment rules.

Personifying big pharma, a trio of fine actors — Jared Harris, Patrick Bauchau and David Clennon — are called repeatedly to iterate the obvious point that investment returns matter at least as much to this industry as the health of children using respirators and wheelchairs.

Maintaining the viewer’s sympathies throughout, Fraser makes for a believably swollen-eyed workaholic crusader, a devoted father who’s forced to surrender precious time with his kids in the exhaustive effort to prolong their lives. Ford, buff as ever, cuts a striking figure in a lab coat.

Director Tom Vaughan (“What Happens in Vegas”) relies too heavily on title cards to establish locations, as the film shuttles clumsily among Portland, Seattle, Chicago and Lincoln. Lensing throughout is perfunctory.

Befitting a movie that too often favors the minutiae of business dealings over raw emotion, the real Crowley appears briefly in the role of “Renzler Venture Capitalist No. 2.”

Extraordinary Measures

Production

A CBS Films release of a Double Feature Films production. Produced by Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Carla Santos Shamberg. Executive producers, Harrison Ford, Nan Morales. Directed by Tom Vaughan. Screenplay, Robert Nelson Jacobs, from the book "The Cure" by Geeta Anand.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color, Panavision widescreen), Andrew Dunn; editor, Anne V. Coates; music, Andrea Guerra; production designer, Derek R. Hill; art director, John Richardson; set decorator, Denise Pizzini; costume designer, Deena Appel; sound (Dolby Digital), John Pritchett; supervising sound editor, Gregg Baxter; associate producers, Jordana Glick-Franzheim, Josh Rothstein, Karen Willaman; assistant director, Lisa C. Satriano; casting, Margery Simkin. Reviewed at AMC Rosedale 14, Roseville, Minn., Jan. 19, 2010. Rating: PG. Running time: 106 MIN.

With

John Crowley - Brendan Fraser Dr. Robert Stonehill - Harrison Ford Aileen Crowley - Keri Russell Megan Crowley - Meredith Droeger Patrick Crowley - Diego Velazquez Dr. Kent Webber - Jared Harris Erich Loring - Patrick Bauchau Pete Sutphen - Alan Ruck Dr. Renzler - David Clennon Sal - Dee Wallace Marcus Temple - Courtney B. Vance Wendy Temple - Ayanna Berkshire
With: John Crowley.

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