Nicollette Sheridan stars as a plucky epidemic-fighter in “Robin Cook’s Virus.” The TV movie’s premise parallels items on current bigscreen and book bestseller lists, though its plot is adapted by screenwriter Roger Young from a 1987 Cook novel. Like the makers of the feature film “Outbreak,” writer-physician Cook and the TV moviemakers don’t find the threat of a cataclysmic disease exciting enough. In reducing the hazard to the level of personal melodrama, both the feature and the telepic trivialize the real-life menace, which is plenty scary on its own.
The premise is in the air these days, thanks to bestselling nonfiction book “The Hot Zone,” by Richard Preston, and fictional film “Outbreak.” Cook’s novel (titled “Outbreak” before the filmmakers appropriated the title), in fact, uses the same virus as does Preston, Ebola. In all three properties, the deadly virus from the African jungle is suddenly unleashed on an unprepared U.S. public. While from the title of this one it sounds as though only Robin Cook is in danger here, the potential damage is much more extensive.
Marissa Blumenthal (Sheridan) is a relatively new recruit of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. She’s sent to investigate a mysterious outbreak in Los Angeles, while old and new suitors remain in Atlanta. Current b.f. is successful doctor Ralph Harbuck (William Devane); former lover is CDC staffer Tad Shockley (Stephen Caffrey).
CDC chief is Dr. Dubcheck (Dakin Matthews); second-in-command Dr. Reginald Holloway (William Atherton) glowers at the thought of Blumenthal’s rapid rise in the Centers, which he wrongly ascribes to her sleeping with Harbuck.
The identity and motive of at least one culprit are telegraphed within pic’s first 10 minutes; there may as well be a flashing “clue” sign onscreen at certain points in story.
Telefilm’s science is suspect, though makeup effects by Bart J. Mixon and Earl Ellis are appropriately gross, and other tech credits are fine.
Monkey who appears here is same simian from “Outbreak” and TV series “Friends.”