What takes "Extraordinary Measures" beyond a disease-of-the-week TV movie are the performances of a grizzled pro and a fresh-faced youngster.
Harrison Ford is the pro as Dr. Robert Stonehill, a biochemist in a story inspired by true events about the development of a drug to counteract Pompe disease, an inherited genetic disorder.
Meredith Droeger is the youngster as Megan who, along with her brother, Patrick (Diego Velazquez), are the Pompe-afflicted children of John and Aileen Crowley (Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell). Megan is eight. The life expectancy is nine for Pompe children. The plot device of a ticking-clock is all too real.
Crowley tracks down Stonehill at the University of Nebraska. Crowley promises to raise funds for Stonehill's research. When that doesn't work, Crowley quits a well-paying pharmaceutical job to found a startup with Stonehill. They seek venture capital. With more money needed, Crowley sells out to a larger, rival pharmaceutical firm.
There unfolds a test of wills between Stonehill and Crowley, as well as Crowley and the head (Jared Harris) of the big pharma company that bought out his firm.
As Stonehill, Ford is a Budweiser-drinking, late 1960's rock-listening ("The Weight," The Band), who, of course, drives an old green Ford F-150 pickup. Ford plays eccentric, irascible and brilliant extremely well, not unlike his roles in "What Lies Beneath" (2000) and "Regarding Henry" (1991) or "Indiana Jones," for that matter.
Fraser ("Journey to the Center of the Earth," "The Mummy") is solid. With basset-hound eyes and train-crossing signal eyebrows, he conveys the agony and alarm of a father trying to save his children.
Ford, looking toward "Indiana Jones 5," is executive producer. The well-crafted movie is directed by Tom Vaughan ("What Happens in Vegas," "Starter for 10") from a screenplay by Stroudsburg native Robert Nelson Jacobs (2001 adapted screenplay Oscar nominee for "Chocolat"), from the book, "The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million - And Bucked the Medical Establishment - in a Quest to Save His Children" by Geeta Anand.
The movie is reminiscent of "Lorenzo's Oil" (1992), a compelling movie starring Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte about a father's search for a cure for another little-known disease.
"Extraordinary Measures" is absorbing, with thought-provoking perspectives about "miracle" drugs. At its core is the question: "Do we just accept our fate, or do we fight it?"
"Extraordinary Measures": Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children) for thematic material, language and a mild suggestive moment; Genre: Drama; Run time: 1 hour, 45 minutes; Distributed by CBS Films
Credit Readers Anonymous: The real John Crowley plays Renzler Venture Capitalist No. 2 in "Extraordinary Measures." The Pompe cure was developed by Dr. Yuan-Tsong Chen and colleagues at Duke University.
Box Office, Jan. 22: James Cameron's "Avatar," No. 1, six weeks in a row, $36 million, $552.7 million, $1.29 billion worldwide, surpassing the $1.24 billion of the director's previous box-office champ, "Titanic."
2. "Legion," $18.2 million, opening; 3. "The Book of Eli," $17 million, $62 million, two weeks; 4. "Tooth Fairy," $14.5 million, a disappointing gift under the pillow of Liberty High School graduate Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson; 5. "The Lovely Bones," $8.8 million, $31.6 million, seven weeks; 6. "Sherlock Holmes," $7.1 million, $191.5 million, five weeks; 7."Extraordinary Measures," $7 million, opening badly; 8. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," $6.5 million, $204.2 million, five weeks; 9. "It's Complicated," $6.1 million, $98.6 million, five weeks; 10. "The Spy Next Door," $4.7 million, $18.7 million, two weeks
Oscar frontrunners: The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards Jan. 23 added actor and actress awards to the Golden Globes in those categories for Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart," and Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side." Adding supporting actress and actor SAG awards to their Golden Globes in those categories were Mo'Nique, "Precious," and Christopher Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds," which added Oscar buzz for its SAG ensemble cast award.
Unreel, Jan. 29: "When in Rome" stars Kristen Bell, whose three coins in the fountain bring her the luck of many suitors, including Josh Duhamel. "Edge of Darkness" stars Mel Gibson as a homicide detective whose instigation of his daughter's death reveals a cover-up.
Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes