August Rush Movie Review

Going in to August Rush, you've got to be more than willing to accept fairy tale magic; you've got to be looking to embrace it, with all of its whimsy and overzealous sense of wonder. That way, the movie can be sweet (if a bit ponderously so) as opposed to so precious you feel the need to punt it through a window. It's a fine line, and August Rush is balancing it the whole way through.

Freddie Highmore plays the title character, a little boy in a Dickensian version of the real world: He has grown up in a group home for boys in upstate New York (do they even have those anymore?), where he hears music in the world, from the corn fields to the moonlight. He sets out one day, believing that if he follows the music, it will lead to his parents; where it actually leads is New York City, where the noise of the city turns into the rhythmic beginnings of a Stomp number. There, he hooks up with a band of street urchins/musicians straight out of Oliver Twist, run by the unstable and off-putting Wizard (Robin Williams as a creepy redhead). When August discovers things like guitars and sheet music that allow him to produce the music he hears, he becomes a prodigy, and a sensation.

And of course, because August Rush is all about the magic of fate and coincidence, this little boy's love of music comes from some sort of machinations of the gods: His mother Lyla (Keri Russell) is a star concert cellist; his father Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is the guitarist and singer of a rock band. The two meet by coincidence on a rooftop and share one perfect night of moonlight and music, and are separated after. As August is looking for them, they are looking for one another and him. It's a small world, really, that separates August from his parents, but despite the number of coincidences and close calls that have parents and child nearly meeting, it takes them a very, very long time to actually get there.

If you find a story so heavy on the charm appealing, though, then August Rush delivers. Highmore is a spectacularly endearing little boy, and he plays the wise-beyond-his-years waif to perfection. Besides that, the film is cast almost entirely with likable and recognizable stars; in addition to Russell, Meyers, and Williams, Terrence Howard plays a sympathetic employee of child protective services, and even the tiny supporting parts are filled by actors from TV shows like Ugly Betty and Moonlight. If nothing else, August Rush is pleasant, so long as you don't go looking for realism or practicality.

Director Kirsten Sheridan is too fond of close-up camera shots and long, silent takes to make a movie that moves at a rapid clip, however. And while it is impressive that all three stars are actually performing some of their onscreen music, for a movie that is all about a dazzling musical prodigy, the actual music is good, but not astounding. While it is totally in character for a fairy tale to feature people who feel an instant and inexplicable connection to one another, August Rush relies on the device more than is strictly necessary, and unfortunately is content to have it stand in for actual character development.

The movie is every bit as super sweet and precious as it sounds; it's also rather slow, and prone to long sequences of nothing but light playing off shiny objects and cacophonies of rhythmic sound. It also places its entire plot on the belief that a mother can instantly recognize a son she's never seen, that fate wields an actively guiding hand, and that music can transcend all other forms of communication in ways that we inherently understand, if we merely listen. Even if it sounds like so much touchy-feely nonsense, August Rush manages it with just enough sincerity and embracing of magic that it manages to stay just this side of saccharine, most of the time.

I'll never cut my hair again!

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Paul762's picture

Paul762

Have you seen the movie that I did? It could have been so much better. I saw subtexting from actors and the beginning of character development that should have been foundations instead of finished screen products. The seduction scene..........felt it was forced. Why did she take his hand? I didn't feel that there was enough motiviation for that. The kiss was a typical Hollywood kiss but I felt there was not enough action to precede the kiss as to where it would have made sense.The first music writing scene...........Where did he learn to make the sixteenth notes and put the stems in the right place. The information from his friend was just basic notes and not even any other notes other than whole notes. He learned all of the other material at Julliard. I understand prodigy and I was okay with that but the music writing did not work for meThe last scene...............She has not seen him for eleven years and counting and she looked at him as if she had just left a dinner date with him and they went to the park. Where was the realism in their meeting after a decade? There was nothing on their face to make me believe that they had been apart for more than five minutes. She hadn't ever seen her son and I watched her eyes and facial expression and it didn't register this was the first time she had ever seen him. I can buy the listening through the wires and the sensing of each other's presence but it didn't flow for me.The dad's confession.................It looked like he was in the bed and read lines. What was wrong with him, what was his malady, never saw it or felt it.Understood Meyers angst for a performing musician but never really understood why Lyla was so torn. There wasn't enough for me to feel sorry for her or connect to her as a musician controlled by dad.Could have been a real tear jerker along the lines of the Champ. They really missed the essence of what they could have had and it could have been a classic.

6 years 7 months ago
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August Rush Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG, 2007

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