With the rise of basic cable, what we used to know as the “made for TV” movie—usually biographical, issue-oriented dramas the likes of which still fill timeslots on Oxygen and Lifetime—is easy to avoid if you’re not actively seeking it out. Or unless, in the case of Extraordinary Measures, it’s trying to sneak its way onto your neighborhood theater screen.
The based-on-a-true-story debut release by CBS Films’ theatrical division looks exactly like something that would have showed up on CBS proper 30 years ago. Portland pharmaceutical executive John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) faces the reality of the need for new medicines daily, with two of his three children suffering from a form of rare muscular dystrophy called Pompe disease. A death sentence likely hovering over his kids in a matter of months, Crowley seeks out the aid of pioneering—but eccentric!—researcher Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), and the two form a race-against-the-clock partnership to find a cure and save Crowley’s kids.
What follows could have been cobbled together by anyone with the bare facts of the story and moderately competent screenwriting software. Will the two protagonists butt heads over their respective working styles? Of course. Will there be a near-miss medical emergency to force home the urgency of the situation? Naturally. Will Harrison Ford employ his snarling “don’t mess with me, I’m a really angry badass” voice? One chuckles merrily at the thought that it could be otherwise.
Director Tom Vaughan (What Happens in Vegas) does what he can with the perfunctory comic relief and the few moments of actual tension, but he’s merely grinding his way through a script that does nothing but occupy 105 minutes of your life and leave you feeling vaguely more uplifted afterward. Tune in to Oxygen or Lifetime any weeknight evening and you can achieve the same result, at no additional expense, without leaving your couch.
Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford, Keri Russell