In Theaters: Extraordinary Measures

Movieline Score: 6

Despite a decent cast and a powerful story, Extraordinary Measures plays with the soothing blandness of an Oxygen movie-of-the-week. Almost completely -- even strangely -- forgettable, it is without risk and seemingly indifferent to its own rewards: even the uplift that is its due and raison d'être can't muster the effort to get off the ground. "Inspired by true events," the film tells the story of a Portland, Oregon family stricken twice with something called Pompe disease, an affliction connected with Multiple Sclerosis which only affects small children, cutting their life expectancy down to nine years.

Two of John (Brendan Fraser) and Aileen Crowley's (Keri Russell) children suffer from Pompe (pronounced "pomp-ay") and the film begins with their eldest daughter Megan's (Meredith Droeger) eighth birthday party and subsequent medical crisis. Given almost no chance of surviving ("Maybe you can see this as a blessing," a typically tactless doctor tells the stricken Crowleys, "Her suffering will be over"), director Tom Vaughan (_What Happens in Vegas_) uses the episode as a sort of passive-aggressive hedge against an audience he will go on to bore and patronize at length: How can you have anything against a family -- and a film -- with so much heart?

For Megan doesn't die, Vaughan just makes it look like she did. Still in shock from the close call, John abruptly leaves his job as a marketing executive at Bristol-Meyers Squibb to fly to Lincoln, Nebraska, where a scientist named Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford) is working on a theory that has been cited in all of the Pompe literature John has gathered. We are meant to deduce that Stonehill (a character who has apparently invented and is meant to stand in for several of the scientists Crowley dealt with) is of the zany, iconoclastic variety of scientist because he listens to class rock really loud, doesn't seem to be socialized and can't seem to manage the common telephone. Over beers at a Lincoln tavern, Stonehill is unmoved by Crowley's personal plight; under-funded and under-recognized, he simply wants the money -- half a million dollars -- that he would need to prove his theory about the treatment of Pompe.

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