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Extraordinary Measures

On Life Support

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Over the last decade Harrison Ford has appeared in six films, and all of them forgettable. In his latest film, Extraordinary Measures, a docudrama “inspired by true events” (a step down from “based on a true story”), Ford takes a supporting turn as a brilliant, curmudgeonly scientist opposite Brendan Fraser, a businessman dedicated to saving his children from dying at a young age from a genetic disorder.

Extraordinary Measures, which Ford also executive produced, focuses primarily on John Crowley (Fraser), an upper-level pharmaceutical executive whose two children, Megan (Meredith Droeger) and Patrick (Diego Velazquez), suffer from Pompe disease, a debilitating affliction similar to muscular dystrophy that eventually results in the loss of motor control, enlarged organs, and early death. Crowley’s other son, John Jr. (Sam Hall), doesn’t suffer from Pompe disease.

With Pompe disease untreatable by currently available drugs, a desperate Crowley turns to Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford), a University of Nebraska research scientist who’s made progress toward finding a drug to treat Pompe disease. Stonehill hasn’t been able to obtain government or foundation grants to pursue the practical implications of his research. Crowley offers to fund Stonehill’s research through his foundation. Along with his wife, Aileen (Keri Russell), and the help of the parents of other children stricken with Pompe disease, Crowley raises almost $100,000, but it’s not enough.

To move forward, Crowley and Stonehill seek additional funding from a venture-capital firm that specializes in biotech. Stonehill’s prickly personality almost scuttles the deal, but Crowley’s business acumen saves the day. With a 12-month deadline to develop and test a new drug and money again running low, Crowley and Stonehill are forced to sell their company to a well-established biotech firm. At the biotech company, Crowley butts heads with a senior VP, Dr. Kent Webber (Jared Harris), and Stonehill’s personality flaws prove to be a liability. Another clock is ticking too — the clock on Megan and Patrick’s lives, due to run out in less than a year.

Directed by Tom Vaughan (What Happens in Vegas, Starter for 10) and adapted by Robert Nelson Jacobs from Geeta Anand’s non-fiction book, “The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million – And Bucked the Medical Establishment – In a Quest to Save His Children,” Extraordinary Measures seems perfect, if not for a big-screen adaptation, then a small-screen on basic cable. It has everything to grab the heartstrings of the average moviegoer — and yes, some critics — instantly sympathetic to children, dedicated parents, personality conflicts, a rapidly approaching deadline, and that “inspired by true events” claim for instant verisimilitude.

Unfortunately, Extraordinary Measures never escapes the “disease-of-the-week” formula seen on countless episodes of television dramas and made-for-TV films on the that end, at minimum, with a good, tear-draining cry and a “triumph of the human spirit.”