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August Rush Movie Poster

August Rush
One and a Half out of Five Stars
Genre: Drama
Rated: PG
Directed by:
Kirsten Sheridan
Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Robin Williams, Terrence Howard
Released by: Warner Brothers Pictures

In Short: This tale of an orphaned musical prodigy on a mission is safe for viewers of all ages, but its sappy, predictable performances and plot may result in a saccharine overdose.

Fools Rush In
Safe for families, but not for diabetics
by Matt Kane

With the holiday season comes the inevitable glut of films safe for family consumption, and if history has taught us anything, it’s that one of the worst will feature Robin Williams. And like the changing of the seasons, that has come true once more, as Mr. Williams can now be found lurking in August Rush, one of the most treacly, banal and sterile films you’re likely to see all year.

Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that free-spirited rock star Louis (Jonathan Rhys Myers) met sheltered concert cellist Lyla (Keri Russell) one fateful New York night and, inspired by the full moon, unknowingly impregnated her on a dirty rooftop following ten minutes of inane bonding. The two are separated by circumstance, and eight months later, the controlling father of the pregnant Lyla sneakily puts her baby up for adoption after a car accident leaves her unconscious, telling her the child didn’t survive. 

Eleven years or so after that, the resultant child (Freddie Highmore) has become an orphan showing the first signs of untapped musical genius, and decides to hunt his parents down on foot. Finding himself in New York City, he takes up with a street performer named the “Wizard” (Robin Williams) and his rag-tag entourage of musical urchins, before someone decides this kid is due a full ride at Julliard; never mind the fact that he’s now an unregistered minor using the obviously fake name August Rush.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Keri Russell in August Rush
Robin Williams and Freddie Highmore in August Rush

Yet as much license as the film seems to take with common sense and reality, it still feels so patently predictable, leading one to suspect that the screenplay might have been written by a computer program. As its titular protagonist, Freddie Highmore carries an adorable but monotone expression of glassy-eyed optimism for the bulk of the film’s running time. As for his lost parents, Meyers spends most of the film dramatically exiting taxicabs when he’s not clumsily overacting, while Russell’s character more or less evolves from a Felicity rip-off to a movie of the week cliché.

On the supporting side, Terrence Howard (as a social worker searching for August) simply looks bored, though the filmmakers did manage to do something right with Robin Williams. At 58 years old, Williams’ usual histrionics aren’t nearly as charming as they once were, which makes his character’s transition from endearing guardian to exploiter all the more believable.

For a movie centering on music, the soundtrack is surprisingly uninspired, though undeniably competent. Along with the cinematography, the orchestral score gives the impression that you’re watching the world’s longest Visa commercial, which points to perhaps the film’s greatest failing. How does a movie so consumed with celebrating the human spirit feel so utterly soulless?

(Updated 11/21/07 NJ)

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