For its big-screen debut, start-up studio CBS Films delivers what might, in an earlier age, have been a "disease of the week" TV movie. Extraordinary Measures is a sometimes moving, solid if unsurprising account of a father's tireless efforts to use his business acumen to develop a cure for his children's fatal genetic disorder.
Brendan Fraser plays John Crowley, an on-the-rise marketing executive who comes home to a loving wife (Keri Russell) and two adoring children. But the kids, younger than 9, are in wheelchairs. They have Pompe disease, a disorder that is certain to kill them before their 10th birthdays.
Doctors just want the Crowleys to comfort their kids, because nothing can be done. But John isn't ready to watch them die. He does his homework, reaches out to any and all who are working on the disorder. That's how he tracks down Dr. Robert Stonehill. Harrison Ford plays Stonehill as a curmudgeon, holed up in his Nebraska lab, dodging phone calls and callously ignoring the human side to his research.
"This is a theory, not a therapy," he growls to Crowley, when John, frantic over the latest hospitalization, finally reaches Stonehill. So John cuts to the chase. How much to develop, test and take a drug to market?
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Egos clash as John quits his job and gambles on raising money and starting a bio-tech company. The script slips into tedium as we see the proud, pigheaded scientist's ways of nearly derailing the operation, repeatedly, and the father's willingness to mortgage his and Stonehill's future to save the kids.
But director Tom Vaughan (What Happens in Vegas) finds plenty of heart in Robert Nelson Jacobs' script, based on a true story. When scientists and businessmen forget who this is all about, Crowley brings in children in wheelchairs. Fraser is well cast as an emotional guy who manipulates emotions (as does the film) to win arguments. He holds his own in most scenes with Ford, who also was on-the-nose casting.
The movie's biggest shortcoming is its lack of surprise. When you cast David Clennon, famed for his icy thirtysomething business titan, as an icy business titan, you're not taking risks. As studio debuts go, Extraordinary Measures isn't extraordinary. It's simply safe.